Social welfare officers to get power to provide emergency protection

KUALA LUMPUR: The Social Welfare Department (JKM) will have more powers, including to release Emergency Protection Order, under the proposed amendments to the Domestic Violence Act 1994.

The amendments include a new provision to be added to the law to give social welfare officers the power to release Emergency Protection Order in addition to protection orders given by the court.

A social welfare officer authorised by the Director-General may issue an emergency protection order within two hours of a complaint of domestic violence or application of protection is made.

It does not require a police report to be made prior to the application for protection order from JKM and the order may be given at any time whether or not an interim protection order has been made or still pending.

The bill tabled for first reading by Women, Family and Community Development Ministry seeks to expand the circumstances and definitions of domestic violence for better protection for victims.

The application for emergency protection can be made by the victim or ex-parte by victim's counsel, family, guardian or even by a JKM officer itself.

Along with the emergency protection order, the authorised JKM officer can also issue a prohibition order against the alleged perpetrator:

>> from entering the victim's premises even if it's a place of residence,

>> from attempting or causing physical injury,

>> inciting any others to harass, abuse or distress the victim.

The bill brings in wider definition for domestic violence by including dishonestly misappropriating the victim's property which causes the victim to suffer distress due to financial loss.

With the passing of the bill, it will be an offence:

>> to threaten a person with intent to cause fear for his or her safety or property or the safety of a loved one.

>> to communicate with the victim or a third person about the victim with the intention to insult the modesty by using social media or other means.

Women, Family and Community. Development (KPWKM) minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim Rohani told reporters that that domestic violence today also includes damage done on property with the intention to make the victim face financial loss.

"This is becoming a new trend. The offenders embezzled the victim's properties, causing stress and sadness due to financial loss," she said.

In 2015 of the 5,100 domestic violence cases, Rohani added, 25% involved the husbands.

Between 2014 and 2016, she added, there were 15,617 domestic abuse cases and still seeing an increasing trend.