Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017 (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Property and inheritance rights, Sexual harassment, Stalking

Prevent gaps in protection. An interim protection order (IPO) protects survivors during police investigation, while a protection order (PO) protects survivors during criminal court proceedings. The amendments specify when an IPO ends, and when a PO begins, so survivors won’t be left without protection between police investigations and court proceeding.Strengthen the IPO to prevent further abuse. With the amendments, an IPO can include additional safeguards, like prohibiting an abuser from coming near a survivor – so police can intervene before further violence happens.Expand the definition of domestic violence. The expanded definition will protect against: misappropriating property, which causes distress; threatening, which causes distress or fear for safety; or communicating (including electronically) with the survivor to insult modesty.Improve rehabilitation provisions. A court can no longer order a survivor to attend reconciliatory counselling with the abuser, which puts the survivor in danger. Instead, the abuser can be ordered to complete a rehabilitation programme.Recognise survivor’s right to exclusive occupancy. If a court grants a survivor occupancy of a shared residence, it must grant the survivor exclusive occupancy – not just a specified part of the residence.Keep survivors better informed. The police officer must keep survivors informed on the status of investigation, status of IPO and PO, and important court dates.Create the Emergency Protection Order (EPO). The EPO helps survivors get protection faster – EPOs are issued by social welfare officers who are easily accessible (IPOs are issued by magistrates). Survivors won’t have to make a police report to get an EPO. The EPO is valid for seven days, and protects against physical injury and fear of physical injury.

Domestic Case Law

Gandhi v. Perak, et al. Federal Court of Malaysia (2018)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination, International law

The appellant, Pathmanathan (husband), and the respondent, Indira Gandhi (wife), were married and had three children. In March 2009, the husband converted to Islam. In April 2009, the husband obtained certificates of conversion to Islam issued by the Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak over all three children as well as an ex-parte interim custody order over the children. In September 2009, he obtained a permanent custody order from the Syariah Court. In 2013 and 2014, the mother obtained orders from the High Court annulling the unilateral conversions and the Syariah Court’s custody order, inter alia, on the grounds that vesting equal rights to both parents to decide on a minor child’s religious upbringing and religion would be in accordance with international human rights principles, specifically the convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and CEDAW.  The first appeal in this case concerned the validity of the conversion of the children to Islam. The majority in the Court of Appeal allowed the husband’s appeal and held that the Syariah Court had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of the children’s conversion to Islam. Dealing with the issue of whether the conversions violate international norms, the Court noted that international treaties do not form part of domestic law unless those provisions have been incorporated into domestic law and that the High Court’s approach of following very closely the standard of international norms in interpreting the Federal Constitution is not in tandem with the accepted principles of constitutional interpretation. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal did not declare that the conversions of the children were invalid. The Federal Court overturned the lower courts’ decisions on appeal, reasoning that the children had not met the statutory requirements of conversion. Specifically, the Court found that the children did not state the two clauses of the Affirmation of Faith in Arabic as the Perak Enactment requires for a valid conversion to Islam.  In addition, the Federal Court held that mothers have parental rights equal to fathers, so the permission of both parents is required for a child’s religious conversion.

Muhammad Juzaili Bin Mohd Khamis, et al. v. State Government of Negeri Sembilan, et al. Court of Appeal Putrajaya (2015)

International law, LGBTIQ

The respondents in this case, three Muslim men with Gender Identity Disorder, filed a judicial review application at the Seremban High Court seeking a declaration that section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment of 1992 was unconstitutional. Section 66 “makes it an offense for any Muslim male person to do any of the following in a public place: to wear a woman’s attire, or to pose as a woman.” The High Court dismissed the application. However, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s decision and declared that section 66 was unconstitutional on the grounds that it interfered with the respondents’ right to live with dignity and right to life, that it discriminated based on gender, and that it violated the respondents’ freedom of movement and freedom of expression. The State Government of Negeri Sembilan appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Federal Court. The Federal Court overturned the Court of Appeal decision on the basis that the respondents should have challenged section 66 under Article 4 of the Federal Constitution, which requires leave from the Federal Court and Federal Government being entitled to join as a party, instead of by way of judicial review. Accordingly, until such proceedings are filed and the Federal Court makes a declaration on the issue, section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment of 1992 remains valid.

Freescale Semiconductor Malaysia SDN BHD (Appellant) v. Edwin Michael Jalleh (First Respondent), and Mahkamah Perusahaan Malaysia Court of Appeal Malaysia at Putrajaya (2012)

Employment discrimination

The First Respondent Edwin Michael Jalleh was a senior manufacturing supervisor at the Appellant, and he deliberately touched the buttocks of Intan Nurulain, while she was working at the saw machine. Jalleh was a supervisor on the floor. The administrative inquiry found the allegation to be proved, and he was issued a letter of dismissal from the Appellant. The First Respondent filed a claim under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 that his services had been terminated without just cause or excuse. He sought, among other things, reinstatement. The Industrial Court ordered that the First Respondent be accorded with backwages and compensation in lieu reinstatement, because the punishment of dismissal was too harsh. The High Court dismissed the application by the Appellant for judicial review to quash the award of the Industrial Court. The Court of Appeal, in this case, stated that the germane consideration in industrial relations is that the remedy imposed is warranted and not disproportionate to the misconduct committed, and that consideration must be taken not only of matters concerning the interests of the party who committed the misconduct, but also the whole of the circumstances in the interest of maintenance of good industrial relations in the workplace. The Court of Appeal provided that the Industrial Court failed to take into account that the offense of the sexual misconduct was not committed by a peer, but rather by a superior, which increased the magnitude of the misconduct. Further, an award to the First Respondent (i.e., the person who committed the sexual harassment) in lieu of his reinstatement imposes an unfair punishment upon the Appellant (i.e., the employer), when the misconduct is not the act of or contributed by the employer, but solely a personal act of the employee. As such, the Court of Appeal set aside the order of the High Court and the award of the Industrial Court.

Noorfadilla Binti Ahmad Saikin (Plaintiff) v. Chayed Bin Basirun et al. (Defendants) High Court of Malaya at Shah Alam (2011)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

The Plaintiff interviewed with the education officers of the Education Office of the Hulu Langat District to become an untrained teacher. During the interview, the Plaintiff was asked questions pertaining to her general knowledge, personal details, problem solving skills and residential address. She was not asked about her pregnancy status. The Plaintiff was accepted for the position and presented herself at an instructional meeting as instructed. At the meeting, she was told to report for duty immediately. Subsequently, an education officer asked whether anyone at the meeting was pregnant. Once the Plaintiff admitted that she was pregnant, her placement memorandum was withdrawn. The High Court held that it was not relevant whether or not there was a binding contract, as the the Defendants’ decision interfered with the Plaintiff’s right to be employed, which is contrary to Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, which provides that there shall be no discrimination on the ground of gender in the appointment of any office or employment under a public authority. This Article of the Federal Constitution was adopted to comply with Malaysia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The High Court declared that using pregnancy as a factor in employment is a form of gender discrimination under the Malaysian Constitution, applying CEDAW in interpreting Article 8(2) of the Constitution, because of the basic biological fact that only a woman has capacity to become pregnant.

Deepa a/p Subramaniam (Appellant; Husband) v. Viran a/l Nagapan (Respondent; Wife) Dalam Perkara Mahkamah Tinggi Malaya Di Seremban (2014)

Custodial violence

The Appellant and the Respondent were married in 2003 under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, and they have two children. In 2012, the Appellant converted to Islam, as well as his children. Pursuant to his conversion, the Appellant applied for the dissolution of the marriage of the Serembian Syariah High Court (the Syariah Court), which is the Islamic Religious Court. In September 2013, the Syariah Court granted custody order to the Appellant with visitation rights and access to the Respondent. In December 2013, the Respondent filed a petition for divorce and sought the custody of the children at the Serembian High Court, which were both granted to the Respondent, upon which both children were surrendered to the Respondent at the court premises. Two days later, the Appellant took away the youngest child from the Respondent. Consequently, the Respondent filed an application in the High Court for a recovery order for the recovery of the child, which was granted. The Appellant filed two separate appeals, one of the custody order and the other of the recovery order, in the Court of Appeal and argued that the Syariah Court, as opposed to the High Court, had jurisdiction to grant the custody order as well as the recovery order. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal regarding the custody order because by contracting the civil marriage, the husband and wife were bound by the Law Reform Act in respect to divorce and custody of the children, and thus, the civil court continued to have jurisdiction over the husband, notwithstanding his conversion to Islam. As provided in the Federal Constitution, the Syariah Court and the Civil High Court are courts of “coordinate” jurisdiction, and one court is in no position to overrule or set aside the decision of another court. However, the Court held that, the issue was not whether or not the High Court could disregard or set aside the Syariah Court order, but rather which court has jurisdiction over parties who had contracted civil marriage and had children out of a civil marriage. The Court held that only civil courts, including the High Court, had jurisdiction over such civil marriage, and children resulting from a civil marriage. Therefore, as per the High Court’s decision, only the Respondent has lawful custody of the child, and that the recovery order of the High Court is not flawed.

Peilis Bin Sami (Appellant) v. Public Prosecutor (Respondent) Court of Appeal Sitting at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (2012)

Gender-based violence in general

This is an appeal against the decision of the High Court of Kota Kinabalu that had affirmed the sentences imposed by the Sessions Court of Kota Kinabalu on the Appellant. At the Sessions Court, the Appellant was charged with the 3 counts of rape of a fifteen-year-old girl, and at the conclusion of the trial, the Sessions Court found him guilty of attempted rape on the first count; and guilty of the offences of rape on the remaining 2 counts. The Sessions Court sentenced him to 4 years’ imprisonment for the first charge, and 11 years’ imprisonment for the other charges, all of which were to run consecutively. The Appellant stated in his appeal, as mitigation factors, that the victim and the Appellant were lovers, and that the sexual acts were consensual, that the complainant at the time of the commission of the offenses was almost 16 years old, and that the complainant has had sexual experiences with other men previously. The Court of Appeal held that the punishment imposed by the Sessions Court was fair and commensurate with the seriousness of the offenses committed by the Appellant, and the sentences were affirmed. In addition, the Appellant’s statement that the victim and the Appellant were lovers, and that the sexual acts were consensual were not deemed as mitigating factors by the Court since the victim was a minor, and the Appellant was 25 years old. In addition, the Court of Appeal stated that the Appellant’s claim that the victim had sexual experiences with other men was mischievous, irrelevant to the case, and far from attracting the sympathy of the Court, and was viewed by the Court as a lack of remorse by the Appellant with respect to his crime.

Balan Subramaniam A/L Ponnudurai (Appellant) v. Public Prosecutor (Respondent) Court of Appeal of Malaysia (2012)

Custodial violence

Appellant burned down his house, along with his wife Angeladevi, and his daughters Malini and Anuradha. Angeladevi and Anuradha died as a result, and Malini survived. Angeladevi gave an oral dying declaration and Anuradha gave a written dying declaration to the effect that the Appellant (Angeladevi’s husband and Anuradha’s father) was the person who set them on fire. Angeladevi’s declaration was given to the medical personnel who attended to the woman at the hospital, and Anuradha’s declaration was given to the police. The Appellant appealed, among other things, the admissibility of the dying declaration of Anuradha. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal for the following reasons, among others: (1) the threshold for admissibility of a statement in the nature of a dying declaration under section 32(1)(a) of Evidence Act of 1950 is very low in contrast to a dying declaration at common law, (2) the supporting witness statements of neighbors give greater probative force to the statements, and (3) even the recovery of a dead body of the victim or a vital part of it, bearing marks of violence, is sufficient proof of the homicidal death of the victim, and even when the body is not recovered, pure circumstantial evidence itself is sufficient to sustain a charge of murder. Therefore, the court found that the appellate intervention is not warranted, and that the appeal has no merit.

SIS Forum (Malaysia) v Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar High Court (Kuala Lumpur) (2010)

Gender-based violence in general

SIS Forum (Malaysia) (“SIS Forum”) sought judicial review of the Minister of Home Affairs’ (“Minister”) decision to ban a book published by it, “Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism”. The book was a compilation of essays submitted during an international roundtable discussing challenges faced by Muslim women, including gender discrimination. The book was in circulation for two years before it was banned by the Minister for violating the Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) (No 5) Order 2008 (the “Act”). The Act prohibits publication of materials which are “prejudicial to public order”, among other things, and affords the Minister an absolute discretion to prohibit publication of any material contravening the Act. The High Court found that the Minister was unable to provide examples of how the book implicated public order issues by affecting public safety and tranquility of the community. Moreover, the book had been in circulation for 2 years and had not adversely impacted the safety and tranquility of the public. Accordingly, the High Court granted judicial review application for substantive relief to SIS Forum.