Parliament: MSF may set up national domestic violence hotline; violence against LGBTQ people should not be condoned, says Faishal Ibrahim

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the Government is very clear on its stance that violence against any person - LGBTQ or not - should not be condoned. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is exploring the possibility of setting up a dedicated national hotline for all victims of violence to get help, regardless of the abuse.

This is part of the ministry's continuing efforts to be inclusive and make social services available to all who need them, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, said the minstry's Senior Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim in Parliament on Thursday (March 5).

"We recognise that it is not easy for persons facing violence to seek help," Associate Professor Faishal said during the debate on his ministry's budget.

"Their concerns are varied, such as whether it would lead to the arrest of the perpetrator, who might be a loved one; stigma; or fear about being judged."

He said the Government is very clear on its stance that violence against any person - LGBTQ or not - should not be condoned.

He noted that the Penal Code and the Protection from Harassment Act protect all victims of domestic violence, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identities or marital status.

"As a policy, social services must be accessible to all, without discrimination. For example, our Family Violence Specialist Centres have supported LGBTQ persons who faced violence after 'coming out' to their families," he said.

He also said the Singapore Association of Social Workers has a Code of Professional Ethics, which is covered and reinforced throughout a social worker's training and practice.

"This code binds social workers to strive towards a culturally sensitive practice that acknowledges all diversity, including sexual orientations and gender identities."

Prof Faishal was responding to Nominated MP Walter Theseira, who asked if the next iteration of the ministry's Break the Silence campaign against family violence could be made more inclusive and address the specific vulnerabilities of LGBTQ people.

Citing a study by non-government organisation Sayoni, Associate Professor Theseira said lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women are at increased risk of facing domestic violence.

But these women often do not seek help owing to the fear of disclosing their stigmatised identity and a lack of the understanding that state institutions will protect them, he said.

"Initiatives such Break the Silence often do not explicitly include LGBTQ+ persons in their campaign resources," he noted.

"If vulnerable groups are not represented or acknowledged, they are less likely to seek help as they may not believe that their specific needs will be addressed."

He added that the possibility of being misunderstood or discriminated against by social workers also deters many LGBTQ people from seeking help.

Besides setting up of the hotline, Prof Faishal said an inter-agency task force, set up last month, will address domestic violence regardless of family and social forms.

Prof Faishal, who co-chairs the task force with Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling, said: "At the same time, we continue to encourage social service agencies and social workers to deepen their capability to support all victims with empathy and sensitivity."

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