PETALING JAYA: The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) has called on the government to increase the current amount and standards of domestic violence shelters in Selangor.
According to WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan, there were only 10 domestic violence shelters for a population of around 6.5 million in Selangor, based on a recent study done by WAO which was supported by Institut Wanita Berdaya (IWB) Selangor.
While international best practices recommend a minimum of one family place in a women's shelter per 10,000 people, Malaysia only has an estimated one family per 72,538 people.
WAO also said that government-run shelters aren't fully utilised by domestic violence victims, as statistics showed that only 38 women used shelters run by the Welfare Department each year even though 4,935 cases were reported to the police between 2013 to 2016.
"This discrepancy is worrying, since this suggests that many survivors are not getting access to temporary safe places," said Sumitra in a statement on Friday (Jan 17).
At the same time, the research by WAO found that while NGO shelters often faced overcapacity, shelters run by the Welfare Department 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," she said.
The WAO also found that shelters vary widely in their intake criteria, services provided, security standards and quality.
"This restricts domestic violence survivors' choices and thus their ability to leave the abusive home," she said, adding that it recommends the government to introduce minimum operating standards for shelters.
WAO senior research and advocacy officer Natasha Dandavati said 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 WAO study also recommended that the government provides sustained funding for shelters to increase the availability and quality of shelters for domestic violence survivors.
It also suggests that the government implement financial aid programmes for survivors and facilitate institutionalised collaboration between NGOs and first responders such as JKM and the police.
"The government and NGOs must work together to ensure that domestic violence survivors get the assistance and protection they need.
"Close collaboration between key stakeholders and the availability of quality shelter services is critical - without this, many women are forced to remain in abusive situations," she added.
Source: The Star