| Izah Azahari |
THERE has been a decrease in the number of reports made by women regarding abuse since the start of the awareness campaign against domestic violence eight years ago.
The Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Datin Paduka Hajah Adina binti Othman, believes this is due to the fact that awareness has already seeped into the public, although there might be some under-reporting from those being abused in order to avoid embarrassment from the stigma of abuse.
“Some of the women may not report because they may be afraid they will face financial constraints, but we want to assure them that we have programmes in place to help them,” said Datin Adina.
Another issue the deputy minister highlighted is that most Bruneians do not want to get tangled into someone’s abusive marriage, or that they do not know what to do in order to help.
Datin Adina said that in situations like these it is alright to be what is known as a ‘busy-body’ in order to become a caring and responsible citizen in keeping the country’s peace.
“The women have to know that they are not alone and there are a lot of people who are ready to aid them through various programmes from the Ministry of Health, the Royal Brunei Police Force, JAPEM, and even NGOs, so they do not have to be worried about the next step and they should not think that they are on their own as there are many others going through the same thing,” stressed the deputy minister.
Moreover, in the case of violence in the family, sometimes the women are afraid of the effects it will have on their children, and to this Datin Adina said these women should not forget that the longer the children live in an abusive household environment, the worse it will be for them.
“You need to get your children out of that environment, and if you just need time out to think there is also the availability of counselling and there is no need to be ashamed as violence is something that we cannot accept in this society,” she said.
In terms of advocacy, the government has been carrying out various awareness campaigns throughout the country, on government legislations there is the Islamic Family law – the Dharar Syar’ie, the Marriage Act for non-Muslims and so on.
In addition, the Royal Brunei Police Force’s Women and Children’s Unit now has an almost all-women unit.
The deputy minister believes that this is important because the female officers will be able to empathise with female victims who come to seek help from the police.
As for protection, the ministry provides welfare homes to the women who have come to them to seek refuge from their abusive husbands such as Taman Nurhidayah.
There is also the support system that they can receive from NGOs such as the Brunei Darussalam Women’s Council, Social Welfare Council, and many others.
“There is a lot of flexibility and not everything has to result in going to court as that is at times the last resort,” said the deputy minister.
Moreover, Datin Adina explicated that a lot of the cases that have been received stem from low self-esteem from either the perpetrator or the victim so it is just a matter of counselling to let the person become stronger in order to step out of the abusive environment.
“In Brunei, women are very strong since the olden days where economically the women were the breadwinners and they were the ones to go out to trade and not the men, so there is no reason for the women to feel that they are helpless, although normally this is the case,” she said.
Additionally, she also called upon all the men in Brunei to aid tackling the issue of violence against women and children as they are the ones who will be able to fully deliver the message to other men to stop the violence.
During the interview, the deputy minister had also urged the public to call the authorities if they know of any domestic abuse happening through the 24-hour hotline 141 and said it can be done anonymously.