The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has urged the government to standardise how its domestic violence shelters are run to encourage better utilisation by those in need.
Such shelters are operated by the Department of Social Welfare (JKM), an agency under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
In a statement today, WAO said it had conducted a study on shelters in Selangor and found that they varied in intake criteria, services provided, security standards and quality.
Funded by the Selangor government’s Institut Wanita Berdaya, the study also found these shelters to be severely under-utilised.
From 2013 to 2016, the average number of reported domestic violence cases nationwide was 4,935. However, the average number of women who used JKM shelters each of these years was a mere 38.
In contrast, shelters run by NGOs were often full or over-capacity.
The data discrepancy suggested that domestic violence survivors were not getting access to the JKM shelters, WAO said.
Minimum operating standards needed
It thus proposed that minimum operating standards be implemented at JKM shelters to encourage more utilisation.
“Minimum operating standards would ensure that when a survivor seeks shelter to escape an abusive situation, the type and quality of service she receives does not vary substantially based on where she goes,” the NGO’s Senior Research and Advocacy Officer Natasha Dandavati was quoted as saying.
Another factor that led to low utilisation was how police reports needed to be shown before admission into the shelters.
Once they were admitted, WAO found that domestic violence survivors were not free to come and go as the shelters were “closed”.
“Without this freedom of movement, survivors cannot go to work and their children cannot attend school during their stay in the shelter,” it said in the statement.
There are 10 shelters for domestic violence survivors in Selangor, where the state population is about 6.53 million, according to the Department of Statistics.
WAO noted that this was far below the international best practice of having a minimum of one family place in a women’s shelter per 10,000 people.
The NGO thus urged the government to provide sustained funding for shelters in order to improve the quality and quantity of such facilities.
It also proposed that domestic violence survivors be given financial aid from the government.
WAO further mooted close collaboration between JKM, the police and NGOs in helping survivors, especially in assisting them to access quality shelter services.