Dealing With Family/Domestic Violence In Singapore: Legal Options and Punishment

by | Feb 2, 2016

Family violence, often referred to as domestic violence in Singapore, covers a range of abusive behaviours committed by one family member against another within the domestic setting.

It’s important to understand that family violence is not limited to physical abuse; it includes verbal, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse.

Despite Singapore’s urban and economic advancements, this critical issue remains prevalent, affecting.

countless families and individuals across various demographics.

While it is true that men are often the perpetrators of domestic violence, they can also be victims. Singapore law does not discriminate based on gender, religious belief, race, or age. The Courts carefully examine the specific details of every reported case of family violence.

In this article, we’ll help you understand domestic violence, highlighting its diverse forms, punishments and its profound impact on spouses, children, parents, or other family members.


What Is “Family Violence”?

Family Violence is defined in the Women’s Charter as one of the following acts:

  • Intimidation: This includes actions that scare a family member on purpose. For example, threatening to harm them or acting in a way that makes them fear they will be hurt.
  • Physical Harm: This is when someone hurts a family member. An example would be hitting or pushing a family member in a way that they knew, or should have known, would cause pain.
  • Wrongfully Confining Or Restraining: This happens when a family member is unfairly kept confined. An example is not allowing a family member to leave the house without permission.
  • Continual Harassment: This is ongoing behaviour that causes stress or fear. For example, repeatedly insulting or belittling a family member to the point where it causes them mental anguish.

However, there are exceptions:

  • Self-Defence: If the force used was to protect oneself and was reasonable under the circumstances, it’s not considered family violence.
  • Correcting a Child: Some physical actions taken for correcting a child under 21 years old, if lawful and reasonable, might not be classified as family violence.


Who Should Be Protected According To The Women's Charter?

What constitutes emotional abuse in the context of family violence in Singapore?

Emotional abuse is a key component of family violence, often less visible but equally damaging as physical abuse. In Singapore, emotional abuse in family settings typically involves:

  • Manipulation: This refers to controlling a family member’s actions or feelings through deceptive or underhanded tactics. For example, guilt-tripping a spouse for wanting to spend time with friends.
  • Humiliation: Publicly or privately shaming a family member. This could be through insults, mocking, or criticising their abilities, appearance, or choices, aiming to lower their self-esteem.
  • Verbal Attacks: Using words to cause harm. This includes yelling, name-calling, constant criticism, and threats. For instance, a parent constantly berating a child for their academic performance can be a form of verbal abuse.
  • Isolation: Restricting a family member’s ability to interact with others. This might involve controlling who they can see, where they can go, or even monitoring their phone calls and messages to keep them away from support networks.
  • Controlling Behaviour: Exerting undue control over aspects of a family member’s life. This could include controlling their financial resources, dictating their daily activities, or making major decisions without their input.


Who Is Protected Under Section 64 Of The Women’s Charter?

The Women’s Charter Section 64, a critical piece of legislation in Singapore, aims to protect individuals in cases of domestic abuse or family violence. This provision safeguards married individuals and extends protection to any family member regardless of age or gender.

The following persons are considered to be family members:

  • Spouse or former spouse of the person;
  • Child of the person in question, including an adopted child and a step­child;
  • Father or mother of the person in question;
  • Father ­in ­law or mother ­in ­law of the person in question;
  • Brother or sister of the person in question; or
  • Any other relative of the person in question
  • Any other person whom the Court feels should be regarded as a member of the family because of the person’s incapacity, physical or mental disability, ill­ health or old age

The Women’s Charter’s definition of “family member” is quite extensive in this context. In cases where the individual requiring protection is either a child or an incapacitated person, a guardian, relative, or someone responsible for their care can seek protective measures.

This inclusive approach ensures that vulnerable individuals are safeguarded and supported in family violence or domestic abuse situations.


Key Requirements for Obtaining a Protection Order Against Domestic Violence

For an individual seeking protection, it is essential to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that violence has occurred or is likely to occur. To substantiate a claim of family violence in Court, the victim must provide supporting evidence.

This evidence can include various forms:

  • Your personal testimony given in Court.
  • Supporting testimonies from any available witnesses.
  • Medical reports detailing the extent of injuries sustained.
  • Official police reports.
  • Photographic evidence, if obtainable – adding dates in these photos is crucial.
  • Documentation or proof affirming that the accused is a family member, as section 64 of the relevant law outlines.


How To Protect Yourself Against Domestic Abuse In Singapore

Protecting Yourself Against Domestic Abuse In Singapore

Addressing and protecting against domestic and family violence is paramount. A crucial measure available to those affected by such abuse is the Personal Protection Order (PPO).

Personal Protection Order

Personal Protection Orders in Singapore are legal measures granted by the Courts to protect victims of domestic or family violence. It restrains the perpetrator from committing further acts of violence, harassment, or threats against the affected individual.

The PPO can be issued to safeguard a wide range of family members, including spouses, children, parents, and other relatives connected by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Applying For A Personal Protection Order

Taking the crucial step to protect oneself from domestic or family violence in Singapore may feel overwhelming. However, by seeking a Personal Protection Order (PPO), victims can gain a sense of security and legal recourse to deter further abuse.

When applying for a PPO, gathering and presenting relevant evidence to support the claim of family violence is essential. This evidence, combined with the courage to stand up against the abuse, can empower individuals to break free from the cycle of violence and build a safer environment for themselves and their loved ones.

Victims in family violence cases must provide the following pieces of evidence before applying for a PPO:

  • Evidence of family violence or a threat of violence, such as photos of injuries, damaged property, or threatening messages
  • Witness statements from individuals who have witnessed the abuse or its aftermath
  • Medical reports/records documenting injuries caused by the abuse
  • Police reports related to incidents of violence or threats.
  • Any other relevant documentation supporting the victim’s claim of family violence

What Happens After Applying For A PPO?

Upon applying for a Personal Protection Order (PPO), the Family Justice Courts in Singapore will thoroughly review the case to determine if the order is warranted. The primary goal of the PPO is to ensure the personal safety of victims and provide relief from domestic or family violence.

During the Court proceedings, both the applicant and the respondent can present their respective cases. This process might involve providing evidence, witness testimonies, or legal arguments. The Court may grant an interim protection order, providing immediate safety for the applicant while awaiting the final decision.

Once the Family Justice Courts have assessed all the relevant information, they will decide whether to issue a PPO or dismiss the application.

If granted, the PPO will legally restrain the respondent from committing further acts of violence or harassment. In some cases, the Court may impose additional orders, such as mandatory counselling or specific restrictions on contact.

Calling The Police

In situations involving domestic or family violence in Singapore, calling the police immediately is crucial, especially during immediate danger.

Filing a police report provides an official record of the incident, which can be vital for future legal proceedings or applications for protection orders. It is essential to understand that domestic violence is a criminal offence in Singapore, and the police have the authority to investigate and intervene accordingly.

Other Forms Of Protection For Victims Of Family Violence In Singapore

Apart from the Personal Protection Order (PPO), there are other forms of protection available to victims of domestic violence in Singapore:

  1. Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO): This order prohibits the perpetrator from entering the shared residence or specified areas within the residence, thereby ensuring the victim’s safety within their own home. ​​This order is particularly beneficial in situations where cohabitation poses a direct threat to the victim’s safety, allowing them to remain in their home while maintaining a safe distance from the perpetrator.
  2. Expedited Order (EO): An EO can be granted when the victim faces imminent danger and requires immediate protection. It is a temporary order issued without the respondent being present in Court, The EO remains effective until the Court convenes to consider the main PPO application, ensuring continuous protection for the victim during this critical interim period.
  3. Mandatory Counselling Order (MCO): An MCO may be issued in cases where the Court believes that counselling could help address the issues leading to family violence. The victim and the perpetrator must attend counselling sessions as directed by the Court.
    These sessions are overseen by qualified professionals and are designed to facilitate communication, conflict resolution, and behavioural change. By addressing the root causes of domestic violence, the MCO seeks to foster a safer and more harmonious family environment in the long term.


What Are The Punishments For Domestic Violence In Singapore?

The punishments for family or domestic violence in Singapore are multifaceted and depend on the specific circumstances and severity of the offence:

Breaching A Protection Order

Breaching a protection order is a serious offence. The financial penalty for breaching a protection order ranges from SGD 2,000 to SGD 8,000, with a jail term ranging from six to 18 months, or both​​.

Recent amendments have increased the maximum fine for breaching a family violence-related Court order from $2,000 to $10,000 and the maximum imprisonment term from 6 to 12 months​​.

For aggravated offences, the punishment can include a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to 18 months, or both​​.

General Criminal Charges

In instances where family violence leads to criminal charges like criminal force, assault, and criminal intimidation, the punishments generally include imprisonment.

If the injuries inflicted are major, such as causing grievous hurt (e.g., broken bones, loss of senses), the punishment can be imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine, or caning​​​​.

Section 323 of the Penal Code stipulates that the punishment for causing hurt may include imprisonment for up to 2 years and a fine of up to $5,000​​.

Breaches Of Court Orders

Under Section 65 of the Women’s Charter, a breach of a Personal Protection Order (PPO) or Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO) is a criminal offence.

The first offence is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of up to 6 months. A second or subsequent offence can lead to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a jail term of up to 12 months​​.

Rehabilitative Measures

The Singaporean legal system also focuses on rehabilitation. Previously, Courts could issue a Counselling Order and a PPO, requiring perpetrators to undergo a counselling program. Recent amendments have broadened the scope of the Counselling Order to include other measures such as parenting programs, family therapy, and caregiver training.

For perpetrators suffering from psychiatric conditions, the Court may order psychiatric assessments and possibly a Mandatory Treatment Order, which could include staying in a psychiatric institution. Breaches of Counselling Orders and Mandatory Treatment Orders are offences that can lead to a fine of up to $2,000​​.

What Should You Do If The Aggressor Is Not A Family Member?

In situations where the aggressor does not fall under the definition of a “family member” as per section 64, such as a non-spousal partner or a domestic worker, you still have legal recourse. In these cases, you can apply for a Protection Order under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

The POHA’s scope extends beyond physical violence, encompassing threatening, abusive, or insulting behaviours, as well as any actions that induce fear of violence.

It is also advisable to file a police report promptly. The aggressor may face legal consequences under the Penal Code, with the gravity of the injuries determining whether the charges fall under Hurt or Grievous Hurt, each carrying respective penalties under the Penal Code.


Conclusion About Family Violence In Singapore

Family violence remains a pressing concern, impacting countless lives. Those affected can take crucial steps to protect themselves by understanding the protective measures available.

Whether it’s applying for a Protection Order under the Women’s Charter or the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), understanding the nuances of the law and the justice system can empower victims to make informed decisions and seek the necessary protection.

Moreover, it’s critical to recognise that family violence is not just a private matter but a societal concern that requires collective effort and support. Creating a supportive community environment where victims feel safe to come forward and seek help is crucial in combating this issue.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, it’s vital to seek professional legal advice. At Singapore Family Lawyer, we understand the sensitivity and urgency of these situations. To help you take the first step towards safety and legal protection, we offer a free 30-minute consultation.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and book your consultation today. Your safety and well-being are our utmost priority, and we are here to assist you every step of the way.


Frequently Asked Questions About Family Violence In Singapore

How Long Does It Take For A PPO Application To Be Processed?

The processing time for a PPO application can vary depending on the case’s complexity. Generally, it takes a few weeks to months from the application date to the Court hearing.

How Can I Obtain An Order Under The Protection From Harassment Act?

To obtain an order under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), you can apply for a Protection Order, Expedited Protection Order, or a Stop Publication Order at the State Courts’ Protection Order Services office or through the iFAMS portal.

Are Men Protected Under Singapore’s Family Violence Laws?

Yes, men are protected under Singapore’s family violence laws. The Women’s Charter applies to all genders, offering protection and legal recourse to male victims of family violence.

Can I Get A PPO Against A Verbally Abusive Family Member?

Yes, you can get a PPO against a verbally abusive family member if their behaviour is causing you alarm, distress, or harm, and it falls within the definition of family violence under the Women’s Charter.

How Does One Report Domestic Violence In Singapore?

Firstly, if there’s immediate danger, the police should be contacted via 999. For non-emergency cases, reports can be made at any police station.

It’s important to provide as much information as possible when reporting, including details of the incidents and any evidence of abuse.

What Support Services Are Available For Domestic Violence Victims?

Victims of domestic violence can access a range of support services. Organisations like AWARE provide a Women’s Helpline offering counselling, legal advice, and emotional support.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Family Service Centres (FSCs) also offer various assistance, including shelter and crisis intervention. Legal aid is available for those seeking protection orders or navigating divorce due to domestic violence.

About the author

About the author

Singapore Family Lawyer

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.