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Petition to stop violence against women in the Pacific

8 September 2011

Kiribati accepts Amnesty’s 21,000-plus signature petition to stop violence against women in the Pacific

Kiribati President Anote Tong will today take another step forward in recognising the endemic issue of sexual and gender-based violence in the Pacific, when he accepts Amnesty International’s 21,000 plus petition on behalf of his country.

To date, Tong is the sole Pacific head to accept the petition which calls on Pacific leaders to make their countries safe and secure for women.

Amnesty International wrote to Pacific Island leaders asking them to accept its petition during the 2011 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting and looks forward to their response.

Since November 2010, Amnesty has collected 21,055 signatures asking leaders to implement laws to prevent violence, punish offenders and compensate survivors, and to put into practice human rights conventions that protect women from violence.

Gender-based violence is a pervasive and systemic issue and the Pacific region has amongst the worst rates in the world, with two in three women experiencing abuse.

Kiribati’s sexual and gender based violence rates are indicative of the Pacific’s plight – with 68 per cent of ever-partnered women experiencing at least one act of physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner.

But Kiribati is also showing strong leadership in combating the issue with the government currently in discussion about proposed domestic violence legislation.

Amnesty International highly commends the sterling efforts and tireless work of civil society organisations, key individuals and the Reference Group on Sexual and Gender Based Violence which have played an integral part in the progress that has been achieved this far.

However, Amnesty International has expressed its deep concern that while progress has been made regionally to establish draft legislation and policies, without the crucial next step of enacting legislation, the momentum and hard earned progress that has been achieved so far will falter and be lost.

“Every single one of those signatures is a call for action to Pacific Island leaders, and as the largest petition Amnesty has presented, it highlights the depth of concern shared on this issue”, says Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand’s Chief Executive Patrick Holmes.

“Pacific leaders must ‘change the lights on women’s rights’. It is imperative for national legal frameworks to be put in place in all Pacific countries including Kiribati, to solidify these new policies to combat sexual and gender-based violence if women and their families are to have real protection,” adds Holmes.

The securing of this handover could not have been achieved without the work of Women’s Rights and Advocacy and the Pacific (WRAP) a group of New Zealand based NGO’s of which Amnesty International is a member.

The public hand-over will take place at City Life Hotel on Auckland’s Queens Street at 5pm today.

What: 21,000-plus signature petition presentation
When: 5pm, Thursday September 8.
Where: City Life Hotel, 171 Queen St, Auckland.

KIRIBATI -Sexual and Gender-based Violence statistics

• Around two-thirds (68%) of ever-partnered women reported experiencing at least one act of physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner.
• There is considerable overlap between sexual and physical violence: 35% of women who experience intimate partner abuse suffer from both forms of violence.

The most common types of physical violence reported by women are:

• 52% being slapped or having something thrown,
• 43%being pushed or shoved,
• 40% being hit with a fist or object,
• 46% of women experienced severe physical violence while 14% indicated moderate physical violence.

The types of intimate partner sexual violence reported were:

• 41% having sexual intercourse because they were afraid of what their partner might do,
• 31% forced to have sex when they did not want to,
• 22% forced to do something sexually degrading or humiliating.

OVERVIEW

Currently, UN Women is implementing the Pacific Fund to End Violence against women project (funded by AusAID) in Kiribati. The project is currently working to strengthen the financial and human capacity of three Civil Society Organisations. UN Women is in the process of expanding the reach of the project to cover more Civil Society Organisations working in the capital and in remote communities.

The Government of Kiribati has developed and endorsed a policy on Eliminating Sexual and Gender Based Violence, and an accompanying "National Action Plan for Eliminating Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Kiribati". This policy and national action plan comes after the release of the Family Health and Safety study of 2009 which documented extremely high levels of domestic violence, and other forms of violence, in the country.

While the definition of rape does not exclude rape in marriage, the concept of spousal rape does not appear to be widely recognised.

There are high levels of case withdrawal: up to 80-90% of women withdraw complaints, often due to family pressure.

While the Constitution of Kiribati guarantees men and women equality before the law, it does not guarantee equal benefits or outcomes required by the Convention to End Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Constitution contains an anti-discrimination clause but it does not include sex or gender as a protected ground. This means discrimination against women is lawful in Kiribati and consequently, domestic laws which discriminate against women, although non-compliant with CEDAW, are not in breach of the Constitution. In Kiribati, the Constitution gives constitutional status to customary law. Legislation has also been introduced permitting the observance of customary law in a range of situations including criminal law, family law and land law, all of which have gender impacts on women. The status given to customary law coupled with the absence of ant-discrimination provisions and other protective provisions in the Constitution leaves women in Kiribati with no legal recourse against custom that discriminates against them on the basis of sex or gender.

Kiribati has not introduced special measures such as quotas to ensure higher numbers of women enter parliament and participate in the governance of their countries. The definition of rape only includes penile penetration.

ENDS

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