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THE government should consider expanding the definition of “couple”, in the context of the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017, to include those who are co-habitating, or living together without marrying.

Kota Raja (Amanah) MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud said that was because there were non-Muslim couples who chose to live together without getting married.

“There are people who are not husbands and wives but have intimate relationship, emotional ties between them like a husband and wife.

“It doesn’t mean that we acknowledge (the act of living together out of wedlock) but matters like this happen,” she said while debating the bill at the Dewan Rakyat today.

The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017 has been tabled for its second reading.

She said domestic violence was different from cases of outsiders threatening or beating victims because of the emotional ties between the abuser and victim.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim later in a press conference said the issues raised, including whether unmarried couples should legally be included as households, would be answered in her winding-up speech.

She said five major issues in the amendments to the bill included procedures in granting Emergency Protection Orders (EPO), which allow social welfare officers to grant victims of domestic violence immediate protection, without the need to make a police report or receive a court order; rehabilitation programmes, improvements to the Interim Protection Order (IPO) or Protection Order (PO); as well as the right to exclusive occupancy of residence to victims.

Rohani said according to police statistics, 15,617 cases of domestic violence had been reported from 2014 to December 2016.

The Social Welfare Department also handled more than 3,220 cases annually, such as recommending counselling or intervening in cases of domestic violence, she said. – July 24, 2017.

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