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Enhancements to marriage preparation courses, awareness campaigns to tackle family violence: MSF

SINGAPORE — Marriage preparation programmes have been enhanced to help couples specifically from vulnerable groups, such as those under 21 and transnational couples, pick up skills to navigate married life.

  • An inter-agency task force on family violence issued a report with 16 recommendations in September
  • Mr Masagos Zulkifli said the Government has fully accepted the recommendations
  • The recommendations would be rolled out over the next one to three years
  • For a start, the Government will look at enhancing its campaign against family violence
  • It will put emphasis on enhancing marriage preparation courses for the vulnerable, as well as expanding its National Anti-Violence Helpline

 

SINGAPORE — Marriage preparation programmes have been enhanced to help couples specifically from vulnerable groups, such as those under 21 and transnational couples, pick up skills to navigate married life.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Thursday (Oct 28) said that these marriage preparation courses are among a number of enhancements that are being made to various initiatives to tackle family violence.

These include looking at campaigns that raise awareness about family violence and expanding phone lines to report incidents.

The Government’s response comes after a report with 16 recommendations was submitted to the authorities last month by a 21-member task force made up of representatives from social service agencies, the courts and hospitals, among other groups.

It was set up in February last year to survey the family violence landscape and come up with ways to tackle the growing prevalence of family violence in Singapore.

The number of new cases of family violence handled by Family Violence Specialist Centres and the Pave Integrated Service for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre grew from 891 to 1,103 between 2018 and 2020.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, said: “Family violence is broad. It's not just about spousal abuse. It includes abuse of children, seniors, it also includes neglect.

"When we talk about abuse, it is also broader than just (the) physical (aspect). It includes sexual, emotional abuse. And it is important for us to understand that context.”

He was speaking to reporters after a visit to the Fei Yue Family Service Centre in Chua Chu Kang. 

The minister said that the Government fully accepts the recommendations, which can be broadly divided into four areas of supporting survivors, enhancing protection, preventing recurrence and building awareness.

These recommendations will take between a year and three years to be implemented, he added.

Laying out a timeline of how the Government will tackle these areas, Mr Masagos said that in the first year, MSF will first look at increasing awareness about family violence.

To do so, it will continue to run its Break the Silence campaign next month to raise awareness of family violence.

The campaign, which started in 2016, includes mass and social media engagements, community engagements and outreach. Since it started, there have been more than 37 million online views across six Break The Silence videos.

As part of the campaign, MSF said that it also conducts family violence awareness training to interested parties including staff members in schools and at workplaces to provide a basic understanding of family violence, including the different types and forms of abuse and neglect.

The training also looks at the impact of family violence on parties involved, the systems and legislation in Singapore supporting family protection work, how to intervene safely and the available help channels.

In the first year, MSF will also enhance the National Anti-Violence Helpline to allow for multiple modes of reporting of family violence.

In the first phase of enhancement, which has already been completed, existing helplines dealing with violence and abuse have been consolidated to make it easier to report violence.

As of Aug 31, the helpline that was launched in Feb 23 this year has received 5,300 calls.

MSF said that in the second phase, it will offer reporting through mobile applications and live web chats.

For example, it will enhance the Community Guardian app, which helps grassroots leaders and volunteers to function as first responders to reports of family violence and ensure quicker responses to incidents.

The app was developed in response to a rise in domestic-violence reporting during the semi-lockdown period last year in April and May.

Mr Masagos said that after these enhancements are made in the first year, the ministry will then look at areas that can only be improved through legislation.

“Because legislation will take some time, these areas where we need to pass new laws or amend existing laws, and also have more collaborations between agencies like the police, for example, in addressing family violence, this will take maybe the next one or two years.” 

He added that beyond legislation, the Government will also look at tackling the more complicated recommendations in the report.

These include providing institutional residential care for the perpetrators of violence.

“Today, we instinctively know we have to support the victims and we do have shelters for them. But we also have to think about what kind of help we should give to the perpetrators and whether residential support care could be one of them. And how we do that… will take some time,” he said.

Related topics

MSF marriage domestic violence family couple Masagos Zulkifli

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