THERE has been a sharp rise in the number of foreign women seeking protection from violent Singaporean husbands, exposing a dark side to the growing trend of men marrying women from other parts of Asia.
Most of the women said they endured regular slapping, beatings, verbal abuse and psychological bullying, and were threatened that they would be sent home and separated from their children if they reported the abuse.
Many turned to the courts for protection only after years of abuse when they could no longer put up with it or felt their lives were in danger, social workers said.
Most of the abused foreign women that social workers help are from China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
A spokesman for the Subordinate Courts said that about 10% of all requests for personal protection orders (PPOs) filed over the past three years were made by foreign wives against their fist-happy husbands.
This is a sharp jump from about 2% to 3% in the five preceding years. It means there were about 300 applications by foreign wives each year in the past three years, compared to about 50 to 90 previously.
A PPO is a court order to restrain an abuser from laying hands on his family members, and he can be fined or even jailed if he breaches the order and turns violent again.
In some cases, the abuser can also be barred from entering the home.
The surge in foreign wives seeking PPOs comes amid an overall increase – last year, the Subordinate Courts received 3,073 new applications, the highest number in the past decade, and up 7% from 2011.
Social workers say rising awareness has made victims more willing to seek PPOs and end family violence.
The bulk of the cases involved people seeking protection from abusive spouses. In the past three years, just over half of the PPOs were filed by wives against their violent husbands, and 11% by husbands against wives.
The rest were filed against abusive children, parents, siblings and other family members, such as former spouses and parents-in-law.
Social workers said some marriages involving foreign brides are particularly prone to abuse, given their shaky foundations.
Violence can happen when couples who marry after whirlwind courtships have mismatched expectations, little trust and understanding, cultural differences and sometimes, no common language.
Latest data shows that about 6,900 Singaporean men married foreigners and permanent residents in 2011 – a 35% jump from 2001.
Over nine in 10 of these women were from Asia.
The abuse is not just physical.
Some men also lock their foreign wives at home, do not allow them to go out on their own or make friends or work, fearing that they will gain more independence and cheat on them.
Others threaten harm, blackmail their wives or rain verbal abuse on them.
Yet, many women keep silent about their suffering, as they don't know who to turn to, social workers said.
Besides, they are totally dependent on their husbands, financially and even for the right to remain in Singapore.
They fear that if they report the abuse, their husbands will stop sponsoring their social or long-term visit passes and they will have no choice but to return to their homeland, separated from their children. -The Straits Times / Asia News Network
LAST week's news on Malay-Muslim non-government organisation Majlis Pusat being investigated by the police for reasons believed to be related to its management of the annual Hari Raya Aidilfitri light-up projects is an opportunity for reflection, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
"Majlis Pusat is an old Malay-Muslim organisation and has been very active," said Dr Yaacob, who was speaking on the sidelines of a Mendaki event.
"We hope that after this episode, they can continue to serve the community but I suppose this episode also gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we can do more to strengthen the governance of Malay-Muslim organisations."
The Straits Times reported on Friday that the Commercial Affairs Department visited Majlis Pusat's office in Toa Payoh Central on Aug 31 to retrieve computers and file documents for investigations.
Responding to media queries last week, Majlis Pusat said that "to ensure efficiency and transparency of investigations", the current executive committee had temporarily relinquish its duties, with adviser and former president Zulkifli Mohammed taking over the mantle in the meantime.
"The Prime Minister himself at the recent National Day Rally spoke about how important Malay-Muslim organisations are to the Malay community," said Dr Yaacob.
"We now have the resources that he has given to us through the MMCDF (Malay/Muslim Community Development Fund), a total of S$2.6mil (RM6.8mil) starting from next year so we are planning to use part of the money to allow Malay-Muslim organisations to tap on it for capability development." -The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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