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Mock Trial Program by students in Malaysia Addresses the Issue of Domestic Violence

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow, 3 December, 2013 (Article Published with the permission of Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Shariah and Law, USIM)

Mock Trial Program by students in Malaysia Addresses the Issue of Domestic Violence

Law students at the Mock Trial

Domestic violence awareness month is a crucial time-frame to educate the masses on the dangers involved with domestic violence. One of the primary objectives of the organizations involved in Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to encourage those victims or loved ones of victims to contact authorities or hotlines to make their cases known.

On the 28th and 29th November 2013, the Faculty of Shariah & Laws (FSU), Islamic Science University of Malaysia (USIM) students through their students Shariah & Law Club (SLC) along with the cooperation from students from other faculty in the university had successfully conducted their third mock trial program in conjunction the university 11th Convocation.

A mock trial program is very important especially for law students as mock trial program will eventually help students to gain an understanding of how the law works and widens their knowledge of the legal system in the context of a court trial. The program will help participants to develop presentation and reasoning skills as well as an ability to think on their feet, all of which helps to increase their self-confidence, as well as fostering a team spirit among those taking part. Mock trial program will also require the involve students to undertake research and to engage intellectually with the kind of important current topics which are selected for mock trial cases.

This year's mock trial is the sequel to one conducted at the beginning of 2011, entitled: "Karma" which highlighted the issue of black magic and in 2012 entitled "Di Sempadan Kasih Zulaikha" which focused on military tribunal. For this year, the mock trial entitled "Kemarau: Hanya Kerana Namaku Wanita" has focused on the issue of domestic violence on women in Malaysia. The main focus for this year's mock trial was based on the 2012 amendment which has been made toward the Malaysian Domestic Violence Act 1994. The Malaysian Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2012 took effect on 20 February 2012. Under the new amendments, domestic violence is extended to include mental, emotional and psychological abuse.

For this year, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development(Malaysia) (KPWKM) through its Department for Women's Development (DWD), along with 1Malaysia For Youth Cooperation (IM4U) and Malaysian Non - Governmental Organization (NGO) namely All Women's Action Society (AWAM) have kind enough to sponsor the program. The opportunity was given as the month of November been declared as the Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Act was passed by parliament in 1994, but two years later, was yet to be implemented. After eleven years of workshops, campaigning and negotiations, the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) was finally implemented on 1st June 1996. Prior to the DVA, legal measures available to domestic violence survivors were hampered by a reluctance to enforce domestic violence as a criminal offense.

Although criminal proceedings and injunctions were available under the Penal Code and existing legislation, domestic violence was regarded as a private family matter, and police and the courts were generally unwilling to take action against batterers. Furthermore, the legal process was laborious and expensive. Protection injunctions often proved to be little more than pieces of paper which failed to protect women from their abusers. Finally, the implementation of a DVA in Malaysia sends out a strong message of the seriousness with which society regards domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs when a partner, former partner or family member attempts to control and dominate a person through violence, the threat of violence or other means of control such as deprivation.

The original drafters of the DVA wanted to classify domestic violence as a crime in itself. But this proposal was rejected. Under the DVA, domestic violence is not defined as a specific crime punishable by new penalties, but it is attached to the Malaysian Penal Code under definitions and procedures for hurt, criminal force and assault. Under the DVA, domestic violence includes the following acts: Willfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place the survivor in fear of physical injury. Causing physical injury to the survivor by such an act that is known, or ought to have been known would result in physical injury. Compelling the survivor by force or threat to engage in any conduct or act, sexual or otherwise, from which the survivor has a right to abstain. A crucial limitation is that this does not include marital rape. This is because the DVA is attached to the Penal Code, which specifies that a woman does not have the right to abstain from sexual relations unless she is divorced, judicially separated, or has obtained a restraining order on her husband. Confining or detaining the survivor against the survivor's will. It also includes causing mischief or destruction or damage to property with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress or annoyance to the survivor. In 2012, amendment has been made toward DVA.

The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2012 took effect on 20 February 2012. Under the new amendments, domestic violence is extended to include mental, emotional and psychological abuse. Although Syariah Law has jurisdiction over all family matters for Muslims, criminal matters fall under the Federal Government and criminal laws apply equally to Muslims and non-Muslims. Therefore, by attaching domestic violence to the Malaysian Criminal Procedure and Penal Code will enabled domestic violence to be classified as 'criminal behaviour' and ensures its applicability to all Malaysians.

The Malaysian Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) travel throughout the country to raise awareness of the cruel and debilitating circumstances surrounding the issue on domestic violence. The ministry has taken many good initiatives like supplying victims with educational and psychological resources to help those aggrieved parties understand their situations in a rational viewpoint and provide outreach programs to those who fall victim to such acts.

Domestic violence awareness month is a crucial time-frame to educate the masses on the dangers involved with domestic violence. One of the primary objectives of the organizations involved in Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to encourage those victims or loved ones of victims to contact authorities or hotlines to make their cases known. By contacting any relevant authorities or professionals victims of domestic violence can seek help and bring justice to their aggressive counterparts. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a full-fledged campaign to distribute resources and professional help to those who fall victim to violent or psychological attacks at the hands of their loved ones. Domestic Violence Awareness Month, through the distribution of resources and education efforts like the recent mock trial program conducted at USIM in the presence of the Malaysia Women, Family and Community Development Minister, the respective honorable Dato' Sri Rohani Abdul Karim, is a fundamental vehicle to hopefully ending domestic violence in the country.