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Pacific Island countries Must address violence

Kiribati challenges Pacific Island countries to address violence against women

17 December 2009, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Suva – ‘There are international and regional discussions already underway on addressing violence against women; it is time Pacific Island leaders take up the issue nationally. Domestic Violence is a real and serious national issue in Pacific countries. It is our challenge to deal with it.’ Kiribati Member of Parliament and former President Tito made this statement at the Pacific Regional Consultation for Members of Parliament hosted and organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) in Brisbane, Australia, during a discussion on challenges and strategies for responding to the high rates of gender-based violence in Pacific countries.

MPs from 11 countries around the Pacific are attending the meeting to discuss human rights issues in the Pacific, including violence against women, HIV, human rights and the law, human rights perspectives on climate change and human rights mechanisms.

MP Tito stated that campaigns by women activists in Kiribati, SPC/RRRT’s advocacy on gender equality issues and notification about the regional parliamentarians human rights consultation prompted him to act on his intentions to garner support from the Kiribati Parliament to take a stand against gender-based violence, with particular focus on domestic violence in Kiribati. A motion he filed (Motion 20) calling for legislative measures to address domestic violence received bipartisan support in the Kiribati Parliament two weeks ago.

Although results of family health and safety studies in Kiribati and Solomon Islands show that rates of physical, sexual and psychological violence against women are amongst the highest in the world, there are inadequate laws and mechanisms to protect women from such violence. Another former President of Kiribati and current MP, Ieremia Tabai, said, ‘Parliamentary discussions must now be concentrated on addressing violence in the home because all other violence can be looked after by other laws.’

Research also shows that where there are mechanisms to assist women in such situations, these do not adequately assist affected women given the limited resources allocated for such programmes. Seventy per cent of women who are subjected to intimate partner violence never tell anyone, and the few who talk about their experiences only do so when they are seriously injured or when they fear for their lives.

Papua New Guinea MP Malakai Tabar stated that a challenge that Pacific countries face is distorted and misconceived cultural and social norms that result in tolerance of violence against women. ‘Violence against women is wrong and unacceptable in our culture and it is our duty to remind ourselves and our youth of this,’ he said. In a strongly worded address, MP Tabar also stated that ‘it is very important that parliamentarians are made to understand and see that violence against women is their problem.’

MP Pierre Lauofo of Samoa said that education – through media accessible to all citizens – is crucial in stopping violence against women.


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