Brunei: Domestic Violence Victims To Get More Protection

Publication Date: 
April 26, 2010
The Brunei Times

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Attorney General Chambers (AGC) will be introducing an amendment to the Married Women Act called "protection order" with "very extensive coverage" to better defend victims of domestic violence.

Discussions are being conducted with the Syariah Court to make a similar amendment to the Islamic Family Law, AGC senior counsel officer Zuraini Hj Sharbawi has told The Brunei Times.

"The Married Women Act applies only to non-Muslims that is why the same provisions will also appear in the Islamic Family Law," said Zuraini, stressing the legislation was still in the stage of being finalised and that "it is not yet gazetted".

The amendment will be the second to be introduced into the 11-year-old Married Women Act. The first amendment was made in 2000.

Under the amendment, a complaint could be made against any member causing any form of abuse to another member of the family. Then the court could issue the protection order to keep the perpetrator away from the victim.

"It is not limited to just women," Zuraini said, adding the amendment has a "very extensive coverage" for abused victims ranging from the spouse or former spouse, the child of that person and their descendants, including adopted or step-child, parents of that person, siblings, in-laws and grandparents. It can also be made against any relative or person that the court regards as a family member.

Under the amendment, Zuraini explained the victim would be protected by being given the "right of exclusive occupation of a shared residence" or, " they can share a residence but the other person (perpetrator of the abuse) is restricted to a specific part of the house".

It also includes restraining the alleged abuser from entering the place of employment, school or other institution or from making personal contact with the protected person.

In addition, the court may also make an expedited order when there is an urgency such as a danger of domestic violence being committed against the applicant of the protection order.

The amendment will also include provisions in the form of compensation to the applicant.

"Where a victim of domestic violence suffers any physical injury, destruction or damage to property, loss of property or financial loss as a result of the domestic violence, the court may award such compensation in respect of such injury, destruction, damage or loss as it considers just and reasonable," said Zuraini.

The draft amendment also provides the power for a police officer, for the protection of a family member, to detain without warrant the alleged abuser as a "preventive action" if he or she is believed to have committed or likely to commit an act of domestic violence until a protection order or expedited order is obtained.

This new amendment serves as a tool for the women or any family members to further protect themselves from domestic violence, said Mariyani Abdul Wahab, senior investigative officer at the Women and Children Abuse Unit of the Royal Brunei Police Force.

"From our side, it would be very good for victims as it empowers them to get away from the violence and get protected. With this protection order, not only can it be applied by an enforcement officer, any family member and even the victim can ask for it," she said.

She added: "It becomes legal and the court will issue specific provisions in the protection order and if say the husband violates the protection order or the expedited order, he can be arrested," she added.

Under the Penal Code Section 323, domestic violence is seen as a compoundable offence, she said, "it means we cannot arrest perpetrator without warrant unless there is a grievous act or there is a use of dangerous weapon or means".

At present, the power of the police is restricted to limited intervention and investigation under the existing law thus with the new amendment to the Married Women Act, with an order from the court, enforcement becomes stronger.

"With this order, we are not only able to give a warning but the (victim) can get away (from the perpetrator). It is a step forward," said Mariyani.

The unit receives over 150 cases per year of domestic abuse alone and majority of the victims are women. According to Mariyani, out of the total figure, more than half of the women are willing to forgive their partners and end up compounding the case in court.

Meanwhile, Hjh Misnah Hj Bolhassan, the acting director of Community Development Department (Japem) at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, views the amendment as a much-needed boost to the department's campaign against domestic violence and abuse. "We have many cases and they need protection. If this order comes in place, it will become much easier for us to use it to handle the cases," she said.

According to her, there are many cases that are not brought to court because the victims decline to proceed due to factors such as fear, being financially dependent on the husbands and the element of bringing shame to the family, to name a few.

Source: The Brunei Times