‘Sinners’ need protection from domestic violence too, Amanah MP explains

Parti Amanah Negara MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud says domestic violence and cohabitation among unmarried couples are two different issues that must be handled separately. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Parti Amanah Negara MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud says domestic violence and cohabitation among unmarried couples are two different issues that must be handled separately. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 ― Government must protect victims of violence and abuse even for those deemed to be sinning under Islam, Parti Amanah Negara MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud said today after proposing that cohabiting couples be recognised as households.

Under fire from fellow Islamists for her suggestion in Parliament, the Kota Raja MP said domestic violence and cohabitation among unmarried couples are two different issues that must be handled separately.

“It is the responsibility of the government to give protection towards victims of violence and abuse even if they commit sins. These two issues must be separated.

“If we rely on the premise that sinners do not have the right to be defended, that goes against Islam and also human rights,” said the chief of Amanah’s women’s wing AWAN.

She said the public uproar was started following an anonymous and sensational article in pro-Islamist blog menara.my, who did not even bother contacting her for clarification.

In response, Dr Siti Mariah admitted that cohabiting is a sin and offence under Shariah laws, and her suggestion was in no way an endorsement of the practice.

But the MP also related several situations involving her constituents who faced domestic violence as cohabiting couples but could not find recourse, including a woman who got married overseas and the union was not recognised here.

There was also a case of a woman abused after running away with her lover, and atheists who found committing themselves into a marriage too big a hassle.

“There are enough evidence to say we have cases or prima facie to give them protection from violence. Currently there are no laws that can protect them from violence,” she said, referring to cohabiting couples.

“To draft a separate law is illogical and will take more time. The easiest is to integrate this group in the definition of those that are liable to be protected in the Act.”

When debating on the amendments to the Domestic Violence Act earlier this week, Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim clarified that cohabiting partners will not be protected under the Act.

Instead, the women, family and community development minister said those unmarried victims of home violence could instead seek recourse under the Penal Code.

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