The SILENCE on SPOUSAL VIOLENCE in Singapore [Investigative Journalism]

“Over-representation of certain ethnic groups does not mean they are predisposed to violence, but could mean they tend to seek formal assistance more.”

– Spousal abuse most common form of family violence in Singapore (AsiaOne, 25 Nov 2013)

*Even though this post gives more focus on the issue of – Spousal violence and Muslim couples in Singapore’s context, I would like to emphasise first and foremost that the presence of spousal abuse is prevalent to individuals from any backgrounds; and not narrowly limited to any particular gender, socio-economic status, educational background, age, ethnic, and religious group. 

Content Page

1) Relevant videos and articles on Spousal Violence and Muslim couples

2) Statistics in Singapore on Spousal Violence (2015)

3) Analysing 6 local sources on Spousal Violence and Muslim couples

  • MUIS Friday Sermon – Creating a Blessed Environment Between Couples (12 December 2014)
  • #RamadanProjectAbuse (2016)
  • Obedient’s Wife Club saga (2011)
  • ALMA (Administration of Muslim Law Act) – Fasakh 
  • Muslim Association advocating sexist / violent behaviour saga (2012)
  • MUIS Friday Sermon – To Love is Not To Hurt (28 July 2017)

4)  Civil laws in Singapore in regards to Violence towards Women

  • Marital Rape issue
  • Women’s  Charter 

5) Where to seek help for women facing domestic violence?

6) Campaigns in Singapore tackling the issue of Violence against Women

7) News articles on Violence towards Women in Singapore

8) Additional reading on the Obedient Wive’s Club saga41) [Relevant videos and articles on Spousal Violence and Muslim couples]

#RamadanProjectAbuse (Singapore)

Are You Being Abused? – Omar Suleiman – Quran Weekly

Malaysia

#TryBeatingMeLightly (Pakistan)

2) [Statistics in Singapore on Spousal Violence] 

According to the profile of PPO applicants in 2006 (Subordinate Courts, 2006), Chinese formed the largest group of PPO applicants (51%), followed by Indians (24%), Malays (20%) and other races (5%). – (MSF, 2014)

Statistics on Marriages and Divorces (Reference Year 2015) (Department of Statistics Singapore):

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*Domestic violence and abuse was the 4th top reason for divorces by Muslim couples married under ROMM. 114 plaintiffs were the wives (85%), while 20 plaintiffs were the husbands (15%). For marriages under civil marriages, domestic violence was not part of the top 4 reasons for divorce.

3) [Analysing 6 local sources on Spousal Violence and Muslim couples]

What is MUIS?

 

The Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), also known as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, was established as a statutory body in 1968 when the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) came into effect. Under AMLA, MUIS is to advise the President of Singapore on all matters relating to Islam in Singapore.

The role of MUIS is to see that the many and varied interests of Singapore’s Muslim community are looked after. In this regard MUIS is responsible for the promotion of religious, social, educational, economic and cultural activities in accordance with the principles and traditions of Islam as enshrined in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

[Source #1] MUIS Friday Sermon – Creating a Blessed Environment Between Couples (12 December 2014)

For the link to the FULL written version of sermon – click the link HERE and press the enter button which will lead to the download of the file. If this does not work, google search the sermon name “Creating a Blessed Environment Between Couples “.

Here is a bite-sized version…

First: Treating our wives well, and not to hurt her.

If we look at the example of our beloved Rasulullah s.a.w., we will learn that he was never harsh toward his wives, and had NEVER hit any of his wives.

Hence, there is no reason for anyone to use physical violence on his wife, because the husband is supposed to be her protector, ensuring that the wife feels safe and at ease when she is with him. If the husband abuses the wife, does he deserve to be known as the protector of his family?

When this aspect of a relationship is neglected, physical aggression can also occur when the husband forces himself upon his wife, to the point that an act of intimacy becomes painful and hurts the wife. Physical intimacy should strengthen the bond between the couple, not become a source of hate and pain….

Third: The obligation to ensure that we provide an environment that is calm and far from any psychological or emotional stress…If there are matters that we do not like about our wives, do not use words that can hurt or harm her.

In simpler words…

The MUIS stance is very clear that husbands are not allowed to hurt their wives physically, sexually, or verbally.

[Source #2] #RamadanProjectAbuse (Singapore)

#RamadanProjectAbuse. Part 6 of 7.

“When men are no longer vigilant about controlling themselves, when they use this verse as a means to express their anger, their rage and their vengeance on a woman, then he (Ibn Ashur) says its the time for the authorities to step in. And that is why any woman who is suffering domestic abuse has every right to go to the proper authorities. If the Muslims won’t help her, then she can go to the police or anybody else. Believing men and women protect one another.”

Ameera Begum

[Source #3] Remember the controversial Obedient Wive’s Club that wanted to set up a branch in Singapore back in 2011?

According to Obedient Wives Club ‘demeans women’: Muis (Yahoo, 18 June 2011):

MUIS released a statement criticising the club’s view that a satisfactory sex life is the main solution to solving marital and social problems. It added that the OWC’s views are contrary to Islamic teachings and “demean women and the concept of family’, reported The Straits Times.

“Such a simplistic view is in fact demeaning to women and the institution of marriage and family, which are held in high esteem in Islam,” it said. “Happiness in a marriage goes beyond receiving sexual fulfilment from one’s wife.” It added that Prophet Muhammad’s teachings of spousal sexual relations reflects a relationshiop “that is full of love and respect towards each other”.

“The wife’s obligations towards the husband need to be reciprocated with a respectable and kind treatment towards her by her husband. Similarly, for the husband, in order to be worthy of being the leader of the family and earning the respect of his family, he must lead them to do good deeds and protect their welfare and well-being,” it said.

Muis is not the only group against the formation of the OWC. On Monday, Young Women Muslim Association (PPIS) voiced its disapproval, citing OWC’s views on sex and marriage being too simplistic. Both Muis and PPIS said statistics showed that divorces are not caused by sex issues, but rather, problems like personality differences, financial problems and abuse.

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In simpler words…

Marriage is not just about the wife fulfilling the husband’s sexual needs.

Both husband and wife have to show mutual love and respect to one another. Both parties also play equally important roles for the marriage to work.

 Muslim divorces in Singapore according to statistics are caused by a factors of issues, and cannot be narrowly boiled down to a lack of sexual gratification.

“For reform- minded gender activists, this is the time to correct archaic assumptions about gender roles – from issues of reproductive right to inheritance law and marital rape. It is also an opportunity to highlight the limits of traditionalist thought in properly diagnosing issues and problems in society. 

For Muslims in particular, it is time for critical self-reflection, to reclaim the egalitarian message of Islam, and reposition women as equally dignified partners in all spheres of life, marital relations included. It is time for a new gender discourse to take shape in the community.”

[Source #4] Under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA),

49. —(1)  A married woman shall be entitled to apply to the Court for and obtain a decree of fasakh on any one or more of the following grounds:

(a) that the husband has neglected or failed to provide for her maintenance for a period of 3 months;

(f) that the husband treats her with cruelty, that is to say —

(i) habitually assaults her or makes her life miserable by cruelty of conduct even if such conduct does not amount to physical ill-treatment;

(ii) associates with women of ill repute or leads an infamous life;

(iii) attempts to force her to lead an immoral life;

(iv) obstructs her in the observance of her religious profession or practice;

(v) lives and cohabits with another woman who is not his wife; or

(vi) if he has more wives than one, does not treat her equitably in accordance with the requirements of the Muslim law
 
 -> The above statue show that a Muslim wife is allowed to divorce her husband through fasakh if he does any of the following stated in the list.
 
[Source #5] Muslim association disputes online report – AsiaOne (8 Nov 2012)
 
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The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore, Darul Arqam, is disputing an online report that claims its marriage courses advocate violent and sexist behaviour e.g. said that several attendees of it’s pre-marriage courses were told that husbands should beat wives who refuse to have sex with them, and that these wives would be cursed by angels or Allah.
 
The mainstream media did not cover on any follow-up on the investigation, but it is noted that internal investigations proceedings were said to be carried out, and that factual inaccuracies were found in the online report.
[#Source 6] MUIS Friday Sermon – To Love is Not To Hurt (28 July 2017)
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4) [Civil laws in Singapore in regards to Violence towards Women ]
  • Marital rape in Singapore

Behind closed doors: Rape and marriage in Singapore – Channel …(CNA, 20 Aug 2016):

Under Singapore’s Penal Code, the definition of rape does not apply if the woman is the perpetrator’s wife, unless she is less than 13 years old.

The same marital immunity applies to a separate section of Singapore’s law that makes it a crime to sexually penetrate a minor below the age of 16 – meaning it is not a crime for a man to have sexual intercourse with a minor aged between 13 and 16 years old, even without her consent, if she is his wife.

The minimum age for marriage in Singapore is 18 years if there is consent from parents or a legal guardian, and 21 years old without. 

3.—(1)  Except as otherwise provided, this Act shall apply to all persons in Singapore and shall also apply to all persons domiciled in Singapore.
 
*As stated, the below statues are applicable to all individuals regardless of gender or religious beliefs, and as such, includes Muslim couples married under ROMM:
 
 
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One of the options under the PPO is the Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO), which grants the right of exclusive occupation of the shared residence or a specific part of the shared residence, to the protected person. 

If there is imminent danger of family violence against a victim, the Court can also issue an Expedited Order (EO) to be served on the perpetrator under Sections 66 and 67 of the Women’s Charter. This is a temporary PPO granted in the absence of the perpetrator. It is effective 28 days from the date that it was served to the respondent or till the first court hearing, whichever is earlier. The aim of the PPO is to restrain the perpetrator from using family violence.

The section 65(5)(b) of the Women’s Charter empowers the Court to mandate perpetrators, victims and other family members to attend counselling. The mandatory Counselling Order (CGO) is often issued together with a PPO. This order is meant to help the perpetrator stop his abusive behaviour. The Order can also be given to a victim and other family members (including children) to support and protect them from violence. Non-compliance with the order can constitute contempt of the Court. Clients who are given CGOs will participate in the Mandatory Counselling Programme run by various social service agencies in the community.

Punishment for breaching the orders:

Any person who willfully breaches the Protection Order or Expedited Order is liable to be fined up to S$2,000 or be imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both. In the case of a second or subsequent conviction, the person is liable to be fined up to S$5,000 or to be imprisoned up to 12 months, or both.

Penal Code

In cases where the perpetrator has caused substantial physical hurt to the victim(s), charges may be brought against him under the Penal Code and an arrest made based on those charges. Under the Penal Code, the following constitute seizable offences:

  • Voluntarily causing grievous hurt whereby grievous hurt is defined by permanent privation or impairment of sight, hearing, member or joint, permanent disfiguration of the head or face, fracture or dislocation of a bone, emasculation, or any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be in severe bodily pain for 20 days or unable to follow ordinary pursuits.5

5) [Where to seek help for women facing domestic violence?]

1– PAVE provides casework, groupwork and community work services to individuals, families and relevant populations experiencing multiple stresses including intra/interpersonal violence.

 

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– AWARE – Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group.
 

 

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–  SACC – Sexual Assault Care Centre has safe, free and confidential services
for people who have faced sexual assault through different communication modes.

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6) Campaigns in Singapore tackling the issue of Violence against Women:

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WE CAN Singapore (2013 – 2016) campaign hopes to transform underlying social attitudes and beliefs that tolerate violence against women.

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SaveMummy – Big Big Heart (2016) hopes to raise awareness for abused women in marriages.

7) News articles on Violence (*not limited to spousal abuse) towards Women in Singapore:

Women’s Action Singapore 

More help for those facing domestic violence | TODAYonline (Nov 23 2013)

Sinda concerned over family violence in Indian community, AsiaOne … (6 Aug 2014)

‘Extend protection order to singles’, Singapore … – The Straits Times (1 Nov 2015)

More abused foreign brides seeking help – The Straits Times (8 Sept 2013)

A look into the challenges of applying for a personal protection order … (CNA, 3 May 2015)

Courts see more cases of maids being abused, Singapore News … (ST, 12 Jul 2015)

Behind closed doors: Rape and marriage in Singapore – Channel … (CNA, 20 Aug 2016)

Don’t stay silent, abused wives urge victims of family violence (CNA, 18 Nov 2016)

More than 400 cases of domestic violence against older women per year since 2014: Desmond Lee  (Mothership.sg, 3 Oct 2017)

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN FACT SHEET (AWARE, 2017)

 

#Trybeatingmelightly (Pakistan)

8) Additional reading on the Obedient Wive’s Club saga:

Thank you for reading Offbeat Perspective’s article:) *Afternote: Actually, I’ve researched and did up this post back in 2016, but posted it (with new inputs) only one year later on 18 October 2017 when the following saga came up A cleric’s newspaper column includes how husbands can hit stubborn wives; internet responds accordingly (Coconuts, 17 Oct 2017).

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Photo credits : Shooting Gallery Asia

Photo credits: Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore

 

 

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