Women & children may be offered safe space if there’s threat of violence: Shanmugam


To protect women and children from family violence, wives may be offered the option of being moved to a safe space if front-line officers assess there’s a threat of violence, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

In his speech at the debate on the White Paper on Women’s Development on Apr 5, 2022, he said that women are more likely to be victims of family violence, with the approximate ratio of three to one.

This option of a safe space is part of 16 recommendations mooted by a Taskforce set up by the Home Affairs and Social and Family Development Ministries in Feb 2020.

“If there is no actual violence, but there is a significant threat of violence, the wife may be offered the option of being moved to a safe space, depending on the facts, and it’ll be her choice even when there is no criminal offense. She has the option that she can take the children and leave immediately, go into the safe space, then consider her next steps, instead of facing the threat of violence. It could also include moving to a temporary shelter arrangement while working out longer term interventions,” he said.

To illustrate his point, Minister Shanmugam said that a common example involves an angry husband threatening violence. And when the police turns up, he denies that he’s going to hit, resulting in a situation where the women and children stay in the flat in fear and something bad can happen.

He added that such a move gives the parties the opportunity to cool down and provides an opportunity for reconciliation.

“You really don’t want every such situation to end up in the matrimonial courts.”

The road Singapore has taken

In his speech, Minister Shanmugam also cited examples from other countries that are unthinkable if they were to happen in Singapore.

“I showed you some examples of I call them vignettes, illustrations of how things happen in some other countries, some things that happen and what it reflects, and how the road we have taken has made pretty much some of these things quite unthinkable in Singapore.”

And that’s the road that the PAP Government has paved.

“And that is by choice. It’s not something that’s pre-ordained. And we will need to look again at this White Paper and the recommendations, continually review, see how far we have come.”

Indeed, the passing of the White Paper should be seen as a milestone, not as an endpoint of our aspirations for Singapore women.