Ministry of Social and Family Development
Ministry of Social and Family Development, Rehabilitation and Protection Policy Office
Consultation Period:
06 Apr 2022 - 30 Apr 2022
Status:
Closed

Detailed Description

Public Consultation On Women’s Charter Amendments In Relation To Family Violence

Aim

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) invites the public to give feedback on the proposed amendments to the Women’s Charter in relation to family violence. 


Background

2 Family violence has a serious impact on the lives of individuals and families who experience it. Over the years, MSF and our partners across the people, private, and public sectors have stepped up efforts to tackle family violence in Singapore, including (a) raising public awareness of family violence and that everyone can play a part in identifying signs of violence and help survivors seek the support they need, (b) providing social service support to individuals and families experiencing violence, and (c) putting in place legal protections for survivors.

3 In particular, the Women’s Charter 1961 provides legal protections for any person, regardless of gender, who experience family violence. These persons may apply for Personal Protection Orders (PPOs) or expedited ordersi to protect themselves from family members who have committed or are likely to commit violence against them. The PPOs restrain perpetrators from committing further family violence towards the survivors (i.e. PPO applicants). The Family Justice Courts may also make other additional orders together with these PPOs, including domestic exclusion orders requiring the perpetrator of violence to be excluded from parts of, or the whole shared residence, and counselling orders for both the survivor and/or perpetrator of family violence.

4 In 2020 and 2021, the multi-stakeholder Taskforce on Family Violenceii (“Taskforce”) engaged a wide range of stakeholders to understand how survivors can be better protected from family violence and how perpetrators can be held more accountable for their behaviours and be better rehabilitated to prevent violence from recurring. In September 2021, the Taskforce released a report with 16 recommendations. The Government has accepted, in principle, all the Taskforce’s recommendations in October 2021, and is progressively implementing them.

5 In line with the Taskforce’s recommendations, MSF is proposing amendments to the Women’s Charter to enhance legal protections against family violence. These proposed amendments incorporate the comprehensive feedback from various stakeholders, including social service agency partners (e.g. Family Violence Specialist Centres, Family Service Centres, crisis shelters), non-Governmental organisations, the Courts, hospitals, and Government agencies. MSF also plans to make other amendments to the Women’s Charter to better protect women and girls.  

6 The key amendments to the Women’s Charter are categorised as follows:

a. Strengthen protection for survivors of family violence;
b. Enhance accountability and strengthen rehabilitation of perpetrators of family violence; and
c. Other amendments, including amendments to enhance the protection for women and girls under 21 years who are under the protection of the Director-General of Social Welfare.

See Annex for the detailed list of proposed amendments.
 
7 MSF seeks feedback from members of the public on the following proposed amendments:

A. Strengthen protection for survivors of family violence

Prohibit publication of identifiable information for family violence cases and to provide for takedown orders to remove such prohibited publications.

8 Currently, there is no restriction on the publication of information that could lead to the identification of a person who has experienced or perpetrated family violence. MSF plans to protect the privacy of specific individuals experiencing family violence, to provide them time to recover and focus on repairing their relationships as necessary. This will include persons who receive social service emergency response, persons who are issued the proposed time-limited protection notice, and persons with ongoing PPO applications.

9 MSF intends to prohibit publications or broadcasts of any information or picture that identifies, or is likely to identify, these specific individuals as a person experiencing or perpetrating family violence, unless the Director-General of Social Welfare (DGSW) had given prior approval to the publication or broadcast (for cases where DGSW intervenes) or the PPO applicant had consented to the publications or broadcasts (for cases where DGSW does not intervene). MSF also plans to empower the Family Court to hear applications for and grant “takedown orders” to request the removal of any unauthorised publications and broadcasts for family violence cases. 

10 MSF seeks feedback whether to prohibit the publication or broadcast of such information in relation to persons experiencing family violence, and whether there should be any other exceptions to this prohibition.


B. Enhance accountability and strengthen rehabilitation of perpetrators of family violence

Disallow applications for the revocation of PPOs where the counselling order has not been completed.

11 Presently, persons (either the PPO applicant or PPO respondent [i.e. the person whom a PPO or an expedited order is made]) may apply to revoke the PPO at any point. In line with the efforts to strengthen rehabilitation of perpetrators of family violence, MSF plans to amend the Women’s Charter to disallow any application to revoke a PPO until the counselling order has been completed. This is intended to ensure that parties to a PPO (both the applicant and the respondent) receive the necessary rehabilitation before revocations are considered.

12 MSF seeks feedback on whether there are exceptional cases for which applications to revoke PPOs should be allowed even if the counselling order had not been completed.

Take a strong enforcement approach against breaches of counselling orders and the proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders.

13 Presently, the Court may require the survivor, perpetrator of family violence and/or their children to attend mandatory counselling. In line with the Taskforce’s  recommendations, MSF intends to also introduce the mandatory assessment and treatment orders for perpetrators with treatable mental conditions that contributed to or exacerbate the risk of occurrence of family violence.

14 Presently, persons who fail to comply with counselling orders made with a PPO are not subject to enforcement action. Instead, the PPO applicant will need to initiate legal committal proceedings in order to take the PPO respondentiii to task for failing to comply with the counselling order.

15 The Taskforce recommended that the Government explore enhancing the enforcement approach for the breaches of counselling orders and putting in place a strong enforcement approach for breaches of the proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders, to ensure that perpetrators take these orders seriously. Nonetheless, stakeholders had a range of views on the enforcement approach to take. Some stakeholders suggested that breaches of counselling orders and mandatory assessment and treatment orders by the PPO respondent should be made a criminal offence (i.e. perpetrator who breached such orders could be charged in Court and made to pay a fine and/or serve a prison sentence). 

16 MSF seeks feedback whether breaches of the counselling orders and/or the proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders by the PPO respondent should be made a criminal offence.

C. Other amendments

17 Section 144 of the Women’s Charter, which was introduced in 1980, uses the term “mental defective”. MSF recognises that the term is archaic and unacceptable in today’s context, and plans to amend Section 144 to replace it with a more appropriate term or description. MSF welcomes public feedback regarding a more appropriate term or description to be used.

Providing Feedback

18 MSF invites members of the public to share your views on the proposals to better protect survivors of family violence, and to enhance accountability and rehabilitation of perpetrators of family violence. You may do so via this link: https://go.gov.sg/womens-charter-2022 from 6 Apr to 30 Apr 2022.


19 We encourage all respondents to share your background or experience in relation to family violence, and provide data, reasons or examples to help us better understand your views. Do also provide your name and the organisation you represent (if any), to allow us to follow up with you where relevant. We assure you that all views will be non-attributable, unless consent is given. 

20 The full list of legislative proposals is in the Annex. MSF will publish a summary of the key feedback received and MSF’s responses on this website, when ready. 


MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT
6 APRIL 2022

i An expedited order is a form of temporary PPO which is issued when an applicant files for a PPO application, and the Judge finds that there is imminent danger of violence being committed.

ii The multi-stakeholder Taskforce on Family Violence was co-chaired by the Minister of State for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Education, Ms Sun Xueling, and the Minister of State for the Minister of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development, Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim. In September 2021, the Taskforce released a set of 16 recommendations on improving immediate support for survivors of family violence, enhancing protection for them, preventing violence from recurring and raising awareness of early warning signs. The report can be found at https://go.gov.sg/taskforce-on-family-violence-report. 

iii “PPO respondent” refers to the family member for whom a PPO application was made against. PPO applicants apply for PPOs to protect themselves from family violence by the PPO respondent.