Published: 12 September 2020
Assalamualaikum wr wb,
Mr Hamzah, Chairman of Casa Raudha Limited,
Ustaz Hafiz, Executive Chairman of Assyakirin Mosque,
Mdm Zaharah, Manager of Casa Raudha Women’s Home
1. I think I saw among us here, many who are very esteemed and also very passionate about families, family violence and domestic violence issues. I’m happy to see all of you here. Amongst you, I recognise Ustaz Pasuni Maulan, who is a torchbearer of the programme of “Bersamamu”, which attempts to build strong families among other issues such as preventing or avoiding domestic violence. I am also very happy to see the rest of you here, on this very special morning, and I want to welcome all participants. I hope we will have a meaningful morning together.
2. I want to thank you for inviting me to today’s focus group discussion on domestic violence. It has been a meaningful journey as what Mr Hamzah has mentioned, and Casa Raudha is not new to this. We are thankful, and I would like to thank both Casa Raudha and Assyakirin Mosque for organising today’s focus group discussion. I’m happy to see that we are all working more closely together.
3. If you look at the landscape today, our community is working more closely together. And I think you can see the benefits of working together, having a common cause, or common causes among the different areas that we are looking at. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to galvanise our strength and see how we can address the issue better.
4. This also gives us a platform and opportunity to candidly talk about domestic violence and how we can work better together to stop it. I would also like to thank every one of you for taking your time out on a Saturday morning to share your views on this issue.
Trends of Domestic Violence
5. If you look at the trends of domestic violence, it is a problem that we need to tackle together. It is a worrying trend in Singapore, with over 2,400 applications for Personal Protection Orders to the Family Justice Courts every year. The actual numbers may in fact be higher, as we know of cases of domestic violence that continue to go unreported.
6. During the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker period where movement restrictions were put in place, the cases related to domestic violence seen by the Police or followed up by the social service agencies, increased.
7. From these Police reports, we noticed that marital conflicts, financial problems, alcohol and drug abuse and mental health issues are common triggers of domestic violence. These observations seem to suggest the need for us to pay closer attention to vulnerable families and eliminate some of these triggers of domestic violence, and better protect and support victims.
8. That’s why I’m very happy when Ustaz Hafiz shared how a mosque like Assyakirin is playing its part to see how they can support families, and tackle issues within the community. For example, the Yellow Ribbon Project – these are very important forms of support that we can give to families who need help and support. And one of the areas they can come to rely on would be the mosques and volunteers, like Assyakirin Mosque. And when Asssyakirin Mosque works with Casa Raudha as well as the various organisations and stakeholders in this area of work, you actually strengthen the whole framework that we have. You strengthen the ecosystem that we have. We can share information where appropriate, and we can also share our strengths and the services that we have. At the same time, we are able to address the issue in a better way, together, in a concerted and coordinated way.
Taskforce to Combat Domestic Violence
9. Some of you may have heard, earlier this year, that Minister of State Sun Xueling and I set up a Taskforce to combat domestic violence and provide better support to victims.
10. This Taskforce seeks to:
a. Develop a comprehensive understanding of the domestic violence landscape in Singapore;
b. Identify key areas for improvement in our delivery of services and support for victims and perpetrators; and
c. Co-create solutions with community partners to address these gaps to combat domestic violence.
11. The Taskforce comprises Government agencies and social service organisations, working together to address domestic violence. As a first step, the Government partnered Casa Raudha, Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, and United Women Singapore, to organise a focus group discussion involving community partners such as Family Service Centres, Family Violence Specialist Centres, and crisis shelters last month. We wanted to find out from the participants about the varied issues in the domestic violence landscape, and how we can work better together to address these issues. The participants shared many good suggestions, and the Taskforce will study them closely and put suitable suggestions into action.
Collaborating with Community Partners
12. Combating domestic violence cannot be done by the Government alone. We need to co-create solutions with the community, which works closely with the beneficiaries daily, and has done a lot of good work on the ground. Casa Raudha is a good example.
13. Following Casa Raudha’s focus group discussion on domestic violence with 50 Muslimahs last November, which I had the privilege to attend, Casa Raudha has already put some of these ideas into action. For example, to change public mindsets so that bystanders feel safe to report domestic violence, Casa Raudha partnered The Whitehatters, with the support of MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development), to launch an online campaign “End Domestic Violence, Starts with Me” in May. The campaign seeks to raise public awareness of domestic violence and the importance of being an active bystander to help victims. Casa Raudha also engaged Ustaz Mirzi and Ustaz Zahid to talk about how Islam does not condone violence and the rights of spouses in Muslim marriages.
14. Therefore, I encourage all of you to share actively and keep an open mind during this focus group discussion. Your feedback and suggestions are important to help us tackle domestic violence and better support victims.
15. I’m very, very pleased that this specific programme looks at “End Domestic Violence; Work with Me – Muslim Men’s Perspective”. It is important that we provide all the different perspectives, from people of different backgrounds, and especially from both men and women. We are a pair. And if there is anything that we can do to end domestic violence, it will have to come from us. Even though I’m now in MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs), I was in MSF for five years, where I worked with many families, engaged families, and also received feedback from the Police on how such issues affected families. And if you look at our children, our children look up to their fathers or the men in their families, for socio-emotional support. The man is also a partner of his wife, and together, we provide holistic support to our children and family. So, getting feedback and perspectives from men is also important.
16. I think we can also discuss, and let each of us know that we play a very important role in providing that socio-emotional support for our children and our family, beyond the traditional view of a man’s role of bringing back food and providing for the livelihood of the family. In today’s world, the landscape has been changing, and you see both men and women in a family playing very important and complementary roles. And what more, how man and woman can come together to build a harmonious family. Above all, in my view, if a child sees domestic violence being done by any family member – be it the wife or the husband, and in particular, for the child, domestic violence done by the father – that connection to get social and emotional support from his father would be affected. It may affect the child’s trust in his father to provide social and emotional support. That is why, when Hamzah and some of the participants including Mdm Zaharah shared with me at the first focus group discussion for Muslimahs, that they also wanted to get the men’s perspectives, I strongly encouraged them to do so.
17. I am very happy today, that Assyakirin Mosque, working together with Casa Raudha, has all the support from all of you here today. I would like to urge you to not only provide a great, meaningful and deep perspective, but also consider how you can play your part, upon attending this FGD.
18. All of you have your own spheres of influence, where you can share information, and also influence others to end domestic violence. And in particular, to get all of us to be on board on this – not only can we help to prevent domestic violence, we can become role models on how we treat our partners, how we treat our children, how we treat our families with respect, care and love, so that we can all build strong families, better families. And at the same time, beyond the domestic violence message, we can all build a strong and resilient Singapore.
19. So, on that note, I look forward to a fruitful discussion with all of you. And once again, I thank all of you for joining us, and in particular, Casa Raudha and Assyakirin Mosque, and all our invited guests for making this a meaningful morning. May our efforts bring better, more goodness and stronger families in the years ahead. Waalaikumsalam, wr wb. Thank you.