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Inadequacies in protection

Dr Theresa Devasahayam of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies has written a letter to the Straits Times about family violence.

But the amended charter has its shortfalls. While it protects spouse, former spouse, child, stepchild, adopted child, parents, parents-in-law and any other relative or incapacitated individual who is regarded by the court as a member of the family, couples who live together are excluded.

If the Family Violence Bill was in place, courts would have protected even de facto or common law ‘marriages’ and not ignore them altogether.

The Women’s Charter has another defect. Only the victim can apply for a protection order. In reality, the victim often believes she cannot help herself and, as a result, fails to take any action to end the abusive relationship.

An advantage of the Family Violence Bill would have been that anyone who had reason to believe that family violence (including spousal violence) was being committed could apply for a protection order for the victim.

The Women’s Charter is flawed in another way. The amended charter makes it mandatory not only for the abuser but also the victim to undergo counselling. In contrast, the Family Violence Bill would have reserved mandatory counselling for the abuser only.

Clearly, family violence should be fought on many fronts, as is currently done. But legal reform is also critical to eradicate this social problem. The legal reforms in place to fight family violence are a step forward, but more can be done to ensure gender egalitarianism.

It is interesting to note that for many forms of family violence, as Dr Devasahayam points out, unmarried partners do not enjoy the same protections as married partners or formerly married partners. In the case of rape, conversely, women raped by their unmarried partners benefit from protection which is not extended to women raped by their husbands.

These inconsistencies reflect an incomplete picture of the reality of experiences of violence and suggest that legal public policy approaches need better rationalisation. All kinds of violence should be considered equally severe. At the same time, there are specific issues raised when dealing with forms of violence faced by people tied by shared daily lives and households – for example, an overarching dynamic of domination and control would not exist in a street fight between strangers, but would exist in a couple who lived together, whether or not they were married to each other. More social support might be needed in the second case, for the reasons that Dr Devasahayam puts forward. The recognition of this reality, as reflected in the Women’s Charter, strengthens the case for the abolition of marital immunity for rape.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 at 11:36 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Inadequacies in protection”

  1. Brenda Guardado says:

    It’s dramatic irony how women whom are raped by a stranger have more protected rights than a women raped by her husband,though I wish that more of how that came about were thoroughly expounded here.

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