KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — In view of the rising incidence of domestic violence in this country, fuelled largely by the protracted Covid-19 pandemic, the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) has mobilised an initiative to make mosques a transit centre for victims of domestic violence.

Jawi is collaborating with the Department of Women’s Development (under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development) to implement the initiative which kicked off in May this year.

Jawi director Datuk Mohd Ajib Ismail said the refuges are open to both women and men, including non-Muslims, subjected to physical or mental abuse.

He told Bernama this programme is among the initiatives under the Pelan Pengimarahan Masjid-Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan 2020-2024, which is a five-year plan aimed at expanding the role of mosques located in the federal territories and mobilising them to serve as local community centres providing various facilities to meet the psychosocial and spiritual needs of people from all walks of life.

He said to get it going, two mosques — the Federal Territory Mosque in Kuala Lumpur and Al-Ghufran Mosque in Taman Pinggir Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur — have been selected as pioneers for the transit centre initiative.

According to Mohd Ajib, the facility is only meant for victims of domestic violence who have nowhere to go and need immediate protection.

“The mosque concerned will provide protection to the victim on condition that a police report related to the domestic violence case has been lodged and, if needed, an Emergency Protection Order has been issued by JKM (Department of Social Welfare),” he said.

Elaborating on the initiative, Mohd Ajib said throughout the victim’s stay at the transit centre, he/she would be given spiritual guidance by the mosque officials and counselling by JKM to help them to make rational decisions and consider the next course of action.

He said Jawi has also identified another 12 mosques which, in addition to serving as a transit centre, would also double up as a counselling centre and place where complaints against domestic violence can be lodged, as well as conduct activities to raise awareness on domestic violence in society.

Pilot project

Department of Women’s Development (JPW) director-general Dr Zurina Abdul Hamid, meanwhile, said the collaboration between her department and Jawi came about following the increase in domestic violence cases during the movement control order period.

According to police records, 5,260 such cases were reported in 2020, compared with 3,263 in 2019. And, between January and June this year, 3,970 cases of domestic violence were reported.

Zurina said the rise in such cases corresponds with the number of calls received by the Ministry of Women, Children and Community Development via its Talian Kasih 15999 hotline.

“Between January and June 2020, Talian Kasih received 1,436 calls and during the same period this year, 1,621 calls were received.

“Following the rise in domestic violence cases during the pandemic, JPW felt that the relevant authorities should work together to address this issue,” she told Bernama.

She said victims of domestic violence who seek shelter at a mosque transit centre would be placed in a special room and given protection for three days, during which they would be provided food and clothing.

She said the programme’s aim is to offer immediate protection to the victim to prevent the matter from getting more serious.

“Through this project, we hope more victims of domestic violence would pluck up the courage to leave the place that is endangering their life and causing them to get hurt. We really hope cases of domestic violence will drop as soon as possible,” she said, adding that the mosque transit centre programme has so far received one case.

Waja squad

Zurina also said that in an effort to help victims of domestic violence, her department is planning to expand the transit centre programme nationwide. To this end, JPW has already contacted the various state Islamic religious councils and extended to them its proposal to make mosques a transit centre.

“JPW is also planning to expand collaboration with other religious facilities and non-governmental organisations to provide ‘safe places’ that can be easily accessed by the community,” she said.

She said to ensure the mosque transit centre programme attains its objective, officials from the selected mosques will undergo training based on JPW’s Women Anti-Crime Squad’s (Waja Squad) training module.

“The Waja Squad comprises volunteers who are trained to handle issues related to crime and violence against women in particular. The squad members also play a role in empowering the community through psychosocial care and guidance,” she said.

Under the Waja Squad training module, developed by JPW in collaboration with the Social Institute of Malaysia, the trainees are trained to develop skills in the following aspects: empathy, attention, response and support or EARS in short.

As of July 31 this year, a total of 1,571 volunteers of the Waja Squad have undergone training nationwide. The squad has so far successfully handled 368 cases involving domestic violence, financial matters, cybercrime, human trafficking, rape and outrage of modesty and drug mules. — Bernama