By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The domestic violence shelter, Lai Yuen, established by the Macau Women’s General Association (AGMM) has found that 60 percent of its residents have repeatedly come to stay with them for up to three times. Looking at those numbers, president Candice Chio Ngan Ieng says that the enactment of an anti-domestic violence law can’t afford more delays.
The Social Work Committee introduced the draft law in last Friday’s meeting, proposing that if convicted, an abuser could serve one to five years in jail, and in cases where the victim dies the imprisonment could go up to 15 years.
According to Chio, director of the Legal Affairs Bureau Cheong Weng Chon has told the AGMM that the draft law is expected to be passed within this year.
“As a women’s association, we don’t talk about whether the situation is serious or not, but whether it exists or not,” she said. “We hope to minimise the number of domestic violence cases, ideally to zero of course.”
Since the establishment of Lai Yuen in 2005, it has provided shelter for 247 female victims and 185 children who came with their mothers.
The law, Chio told the Macau Daily Times, can protect the women and also allow the potential abusers, before committing the crime, to think about what consequences that he/she may have to shoulder.
In addition, with the presence of the legislation she said Macau can reinforce education and publicity in the community, through which hopefully the occurrence of domestic violence will be suppressed.
However, Chio said that it is nearly impossible to comment on how widespread domestic violence is, because of all the “hidden cases”.
“In Lai Yuen we’ve found that many of the victims had been abused for five years or more before coming to us, and some were even over 10 years.
“Also, 60 percent of the women that we’re helping have come to stay in Lai Yuen for three times. So we hope that the enactment of the law can reduce the repeatability of the crime and also make more victims come forward.”
The abusers of nearly 80 percent of the cases in Lai Yuen were husbands, followed by ex-husbands or boyfriends. Alcohol or gambling addiction, family financial problems or jealousy were usually the causes.
“Our ultimate goal is to help the victims and abusers restore the relationships, but if it fails we will provide the victims with legal assistance and transfer them to the Social Welfare Bureau to apply for emergency financial aid,” Chio said.