The Muslim Women’s Association (MWA) has warned Muslim victims of domestic violence risk being alienated if funding to the only service designed specifically for them is cut, with domestic violence services built on specific feminist principles unable to appropriately cater for them .
MWA’s funding could be cut at the end of October under the New South Wales government’s changed rules to funding for homeless and domestic violence services. It has been the only Muslim-specific service in NSW for 25 years and “many families may no longer be supported”, said a submission to the federal government’s inquiry into domestic violence .
“MWA made a conscious decision to deal with DV effectively by involving the whole community. DV is not simply the woman’s problem, the community must be involved and aware that no violence in any form or shape can be tolerated,” the submission said .
“Such a theme is central to Islam’s beliefs and as such a coordinated approach was needed .”
MWA said issues for Muslim women escaping domestic violence included access to halal meat, staying away from alcohol, access to prayer facilities as well as having appropriate access to their prefered religious leader .
There are more than 72 ethnic groups that come under the banner of Islam, as well as various sects within Islam, that service providers need to be aware of, according to the submission .
MWA said it was important the cultural differences were recognised by domestic violence services as Muslim women were likely to not want to leave the family home .
“DV support services during this time in Australia (the mid to late 80s) were built on the feminist philosophy of separation. This was not compatible with Muslim women, who would prefer family restoration over separation, in situations where there was no risk of continued physical harm,” the submission said .
MWA have had to submit pre-qualification and service model applications to the NSW government after changes were made which will see fewer domestic violence and homeless services operate .
“MWA identifies the need for a mapping exercise to be conducted within the broader NSW area so that it can be identified which areas need the most support and specifically what type of support is needed,” the submission said .
“The government must ensure that those who are funded to support children and young people are developing and implementing appropriate programs that will have a lasting effect and that preventative measures are implemented, as opposed to short-term solutions .”
The Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (QIFVLS) used their submission to highlight that victims of domestic violence in public housing risk homelessness .
“Tough enforcement of the three strikes rule can mean that victims of domestic abuse face an increased risk of homelessness,” the submission said .
“The lack of available housing options results in over capacity within houses, thereby increasing the number of incidents of ‘antisocial behaviour’ leading to ‘strikes’ against public housing tenants .”
QIFVLS said this affected Indigenous women disproportionately as they were more likely to be in public housing. Indigenous women are already 35 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault and 10 times more likely to die from assault than non-Indigenous women, according to the submission .
The organisation also pointed to the lack of police response and lack of media interest when it came to domestic violence as major contributing factors to it being “normalised ”.
“Due to the important structural and cultural issues in communities, there is a sense of solidarity amongst the community which overrides the interests of one individual,” the submission said .
“This is a strong consideration for victims in reporting family violence, as victims believe it will bring shame to their children and extended families .”
There is no common definition for domestic violence across different Australian states which the submission said was “problematic ”.
The Non-Custodial Parents party argued a parent withholding access to children was a form of domestic violence as it incurred psychological damage .
“An easily-made family violence allegation will give one parent, normally the mother, a significant advantage. This is both in terms of custody and also financial benefits,” the submission said .
“Sole custody then brings with it significant financial gains. These financial gains include increased social security payments, child support payments and property settlements .”
The party said they abhorred incidents of “genuine domestic violence” but more effort needed to be made to ensure the statistics of domestic violence against men were properly collected .
The Finance and Public Administration References Committee will report its findings on domestic violence in Australia next month .
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