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White Ribbon Week: Who gets a Personal Protection Order?

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has submitted its recommendations to the Ministry of Social and Family as part of the latter's consultation on the draft Women's Charter (Amendment) Bill 2016.

Among the recommendations that AWARE submitted were those related to the obtaining of Personal Protection Orders (PPOs), which allow individuals who have been abused to seek protection.

In its suggested amendments to the Women's Charter, MSF proposed to "[enhance] protection for women, girls, residents at places of safety and professionals engaged in protection work". As things currently stand, victims of family violence below the age of 21 needs a guardian or person responsible for their care to apply for a PPO. MSF's proposal would allow a married or previously married person under 21 to apply for a PPO for himself or herself, as well as his or her children.

"Although this is a step in the right direction, we wonder why it is limited only to ‘married or previously married persons below the age of 21 years’," said AWARE in its submissions. The gender equality organisation went on to recommend that all minors be empowered to seek their own protection from domestic violence, and that the protection sought can be against any member of the household.

AWARE also agreed with the suggestion made by PAVE, Singapore's first family violence specialist centre, to allow individuals to apply for PPOs against their intimate partners even if they're unmarried, but took a step further by advocating that all intimate partners be included regardless of sexual orientation. AWARE also suggested that PPOs be available against anyone living in the same household, so as to afford protection to housemates and domestic workers who might be in need of protection.

"We can see that there might be difficulties defining an intimate relationship so one alternative might be simply expanding Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) so that breaches of POHA Protection Orders are seizable, as breaches of PPOs currently are," said AWARE Programmes and Communications
Senior Manager Jolene Tan. "This avoids the definitional problems - the focus is on the unlawful conduct of harassment or stalking, not the relationship."

About 3,000 PPOs are sought against family violence each year; three out of four of these applications are made by women. AWARE says that over 200 women contacted their Sexual Assault Care Centre for help last year.