A research study conducted by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), supported by Institut Wanita Bersatu (IWB), revealed that there is an urgent need to increase the quantity and standards of domestic violence shelters in Selangor.
The international best practices recommend a minimum of one family place in a women’s shelter per 10,000 people while in Malaysia there is only an estimated of one family place per 72,538 people.
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WAO Executive Director, Sumitra Visvanathan said that the number of shelters in Malaysia is inadequate and there are only 10 domestic violence shelters in the state of Selangor, for a population of around 6.5 million people.
The available government run shelters are not fully utilised by domestic violence survivors. Between 2013 to 2016 there were 4,935 domestic violence cases reported to PDRM, and only 38 women survivors have access to shelters run by Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM) on average each year.
Sumitra added it is worrying that many survivors are not getting access to temporary safe places.
While NGO shelters often faced overcapacity, shelters run by JKM are under-utilised.
This divergence could be attributed to the more stringent intake criteria of JKM shelters—which require filing a police report—or from JKM shelters being closed, meaning survivors are not free to come and go.
Without this freedom of movement, survivors cannot go to work and their children cannot attend school during their stay in the shelter.
WAO also found that shelters vary in their intake criteria, services provided, security and quality which restrict domestic violence survivors’ choices thus their ability to leave their abusive homes.
The minimum operating standards would ensure that when a survivors seeks shelter to escape an abusive situation, the type and quality of service she receives should not vary substantially based on where she goes, said WAO Senior Research and Advocacy Officer, Natasha Dandavati.
WAO studies also recommends that the government implement financial aid programmes for domestic violence survivors and facilitate institutionalised collaboration between NGOs and first responders such as JKM and the police.
Government and NGOs must work together to ensure that domestic violence survivors get the assistance and protection they need.
Sumitra added that a close collaboration between key stakeholders and the availability of quality shelter services is critical – without it, many women will be forced to remain in their abusive situations.
By: Aishah Akashah Ahadiat