Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the general outline of the government’s domestic violence prevention bill Tuesday, with developer Fong Chi Keong, a government-appointed lawmaker, abstaining.
Many lawmakers voiced their concerns on how authorities will determine the level of the severity of a domestic dispute. They also raised questions on the definition of minor offences as defined in the bill drafted by the government.
Lawmaker Antonio Ng Kuok Cheong said he wanted to know why the bill excludes same-sex couples from protection, citing jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan that have regulations protecting same-sex couples without recognising same-sex marriages.
Responding to questions regarding the definition of domestic violence, Legal Affairs Bureau (DSAJ) Deputy Director Leong Pou Ieng said the main objective of the bill was to increase victims’ protection. She said that a case would be regarded as domestic violence if victims suffer serious injuries involving limbs or internal organs.
Answering Ng’s queries, Leong reiterated that there are no official regulations in Macau on the rights of same-sex couples. She suggested that articles in the Civil Code about the definition of “couple” should be amended first before amending the bill. “We need to know that in Taiwan the law recognises same-sex relationships when dealing with administrative issues, but in terms of criminal matters [i.e. domestic violence]… it is still treated as a semi-public crime,” she said.
In a semi-public crime, authorities can only take legal action when the victims want to. But in a public crime, authorities can take action even without victims’ consent.
Lawmaker-cum-unionist Ella Lei Cheng I commented that many domestic violence aggressors have mental or psychological problems. She also said she hoped that more resources could be spent on counselling by the city’s social services.
Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) President Iong Kong Io said his bureau has a department that specifically deals with family disputes, adding that with a staff of just 45 he expects that the department’s workload will increase once the domestic violence bill becomes law. Iong said his bureau would work with private social service organisations more frequently in the future.
Some lawmakers enquired why domestic helpers are not included in the bill.
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng told lawmakers this was because domestic helpers’ rights and legal protection are detailed in the Labour Relations Law.
In addition, lawmakers also passed an amendment bill on the organisation structure of the legislature. (macaupost/macaunews)