It is a sad but undeniable fact that home is not always a safe haven and that once loving relationships can turn violent. A recent statistical study by the World Health Organisation in 2013 found that more than one in three people are victims of sexual or physical violence.
Domestic violence encompasses many forms of violence involving different parties, including partners, parents, children and the extended family. Domestic violence refers to a wide range of acts, from verbal abuse to threats to marital rape and murder, that take place in the privacy of an intimate relationship, often in the marital home. In other words, domestic violence involves people who know each other, not ‘strangers’.
In Malaysia, there are a number of laws that protect the victim from domestic violence. The primary one is the Domestic Violence Act 1994 (“DVA”). Prior to DVA, any action against an abuser was usually through a charge under the Penal Code in a criminal case or a court order for a restraining order. DVA is made conditional by Section 3 of the Penal Code for a charge to be brought against the offender. This means that any complaint of domestic violence made by a complainant must be investigated by the police under both DVA and the Penal Code.
According to section 5 of the DVA, protection orders are designed to protect the complainant, a child or an incapacitated adult from domestic violence.
The DVA also extends protection to “de facto spouses,” couples who have performed a religious or customary marriage ceremony but have not registered the marriage. However, the law does not apply to unmarried couples.
The DVA interprets the term domestic violence broadly. It includes the following terms:
There are two types of protection orders designed under DVA which are emergency protection orders and interim protection orders.
The current amended DVA allows the Director General under Part 1A to authorize in writing a welfare officer to issue an EPO if the defendant intentionally or knowingly places or attempts to place the victim in fear of bodily harm or inflicts bodily harm on the victim by such act that is known or should have been known to result in bodily harm.
It is not necessary for the applicant to file a police report in order for the EPO to be issued. The EPO may be applied at the nearest social services agency known as Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM). Upon receipt of the application for an EPO, the authorized welfare officer may issue the EPO within 2 hours of the application. When issuing an EPO, the following orders may also be made;
Although neither a police report nor a petition for court protection is required for an emergency order, an emergency order is valid only for seven days from the date of its issuance and is enforceable only if a copy of the order has been served on the person against whom the order was issued.
IPO is an order issued while the investigation is ongoing and expires at the conclusion of the investigation, at which time the complainant must seek a protective order under Section 5 of the Act.
If the court determines that the complainant’s protection and personal safety are in jeopardy, the court may order one or more orders under Section 6(1) of the Act, which may be included in the protective order. Additional orders include the following:
Section 6(1)(f) of the Act also gives the court greater discretion to issue any orders necessary to carry out and related to the above orders.
Since the introduction of the Act, many victims are aware of their rights and have better access to justice when it comes to crimes of domestic violence.
In summary, the government should make rigorous efforts to deal with the increasing number of domestic violence cases by promoting programmes such as support groups for victims, legal awareness programmes, education campaigns, and mass media campaigns to improve the current situation and reduce the number of domestic violence cases in this country.
Ultimately, any protective order under the Act is intended to protect a victim, child or incapacitated adult from being harmed by the perpetrator by ensuring that they are protected, treated and compensated in accordance with the Act.