By Ruby Awa, Senior Human Rights Adviser, The Pacific Community
The story so far
Across the Pacific region, countries are in the early stages of implementing family protection and domestic violence legislation. This paper discusses their experiences to date.
In 2008, Vanuatu’s Parliament passed the very first comprehensive domestic violence legislation in the Pacific ‒ the Family Protection Act (2008). Between 2009 and 2014, domestic violence laws were passed in Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Kosrae State (Federated States of Micronesia), Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Tonga had a very clear plan for the commencement of its Family Protection Act (2013). There was commitment to training, consultation and development of their implementation plan with a set time frame of six months. After six months, the act went through the required processes for commencement. In Vanuatu and some other countries, there was immediate commencement of their domestic violence acts, but the actual application of some provisions came later, with appointments, consultation, training and pilot programmes. Solomon Islands carried out nationwide consultation and training with the police, the courts, NGOs and communities over the course of two years before commencement of their act in 2016. Certain provisions, such as the registration of counsellors, will be delayed until a register is developed and the minister appoints counsellors.
Implementation plans are a new development in domestic violence legislation. The idea developed from lessons learned in countries that already had domestic violence legislation. The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) has assisted Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands to develop implementation plans.
The plan sets out the framework for implementing the law, including the duties, responsible institutions/authorities, costing, and a time frame for fulfilling or commencing certain activities. For example, an implementation plan may note that police safety forms must be printed and that the forms should include the date of printing the first batch.
The implementation plan for Kiribati also includes narrative on the standards and principles that stakeholders should consider. The implementation plans for Tonga and Solomon Islands are in the form of a matrix that sets out short-term and long-term goals and an integrated monitoring plan.
Some countries develop their implementation plan after the legislation is enacted, while others develop it simultaneously. The Solomon Islands Bills and Legislation Committee considered a bill with an annexed implementation plan.
The plans are living documents that are continuously reviewed and changed.
Not all countries with domestic violence legislation have developed regulations. Some consider that the legislation provides clear steps and definitions that responsible institutions can apply. Papua New Guinea held a consultation in 2015 on a draft family protection regulation that provided the necessary definitions and steps to guide the courts.
Counselling and mediation
Most of the domestic violence legislation in the Pacific provides for counselling. Counselling is not mandatory, but where the victim, or the perpetrator in some countries, wants counselling, approved counsellors must be arranged. While countries are working towards national standards and accreditation, the current development includes training for counsellors who are working with domestic violence victims.
Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands provide for mediation, but it is crucial that all service providers bear in mind that domestic violence happens where there is gender inequality and that power and controls rests with the perpetrator. Under the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act (2014), the only institution that can provide information on mediation is the court. This is not part of a court order, but as information should parties wish to undertake mediation voluntarily.
Training for stakeholders
Stakeholders include institutions that have duties under the act, such as the courts, police, health care providers, government ministries with roles in training, awareness and oversight of implementation of the act, and civil society groups that carry out awareness programmes.
The legislation provides for new protection mechanisms and ways to respond to domestic violence. It has therefore been necessary to train relevant stakeholders such as police, judges and magistrates, who have an essential role in ensuring the implementation of these protection mechanisms. Training of stakeholders is also necessary when they are given additional roles. For example, the Solomon Islands FPA provides for police safety notices, which meant police required training on their role as set out in the FPA.
Vanuatu was the first country to make training on its domestic violence act compulsory. Other countries are training the police and also developing modules on domestic violence for them. Human rights and gender are crucial components of the training as they are key principles in the application of domestic violence laws. Domestic violence is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. Where there is gender inequality, the disadvantaged and oppressed gender, mostly females, are more vulnerable and susceptible to violence in the home.
When I was in Solomon Islands recently for a training session, a police officer commented that even though the police now have powers to issue notices to perpetrators of domestic violence, their biggest challenge is to decipher whether the violence was the result of provocation.
Obviously, it is not the role of the police to consider provocation. Their role is to provide immediate protection for victims of domestic violence. This is one of the many discussions emerging around the Pacific in relation to new domestic violence legislation.
Training for the community
Police safety notices, also called police safety orders in some Pacific countries, are like court orders. The police are to look for three things: whether domestic violence has happened or is likely to happen; whether the two people involved in the violence or threat of violence are members of the same family; and whether getting a court order is not possible.
Domestic violence has been tolerated for too long in Pacific communities and one of the biggest challenges lies in attitudes to this violence. Emerging research shows the vulnerability of women and girls, but there is also a tendency to feel that men and boys are not considered. There is a need for consultation and discussion on this key issue: that the vulnerability of women and girls to violence, and the strategies to deal with it, should include both males and females. For example, both sexes find that reporting violence in the family to the police is a difficult matter. However, it is important to further consider that women and girls find reporting a male family member very frightening, as the male may be perceived as the person with the most power in the house.
Having the right information about domestic violence laws and the places to go to for help is crucial for community members. NGOs play an important role in sharing information on domestic violence laws in communities and some have developed, or are developing, relevant training manuals.
Some countries have set up committees that are responsible for approving training manuals to ensure that communities receive clear messages.
Advisory councils or committees provide oversight of the implementation of domestic violence laws. These bodies are appointed by a government minister and have met in most of the countries that have established domestic violence laws.
The main outputs of most of the committees are an annual report to parliament on the progress of implementation of the legislation and a review after three years.
At the time of writing, Cook Islands, Niue, Nauru and the states of Chuuk and Pohnpei (FSM) do not yet have family protection/domestic violence legislation, although in all cases processes are underway. Enactment of legislation is a significant milestone but effective implementation of the laws is the most critical step in offering protection and change to women and children across the Pacific.
Human Rights-based Approach to Journalism in the Pacific
By Justice Stephen Pallaras QC, South Australia's former director of public prosecutions and more recently justice of the High Court in the Solomon Islands
GOOD MORNING LADY, quickly bring plenty drink come house eat go little village toilet goodbye
May be useful. Don’t know.
Depends upon whether an OPPORTUNITY to use those words presents itself.
The knowledge of the words is useless without the opportunity. And having an opportunity is useless without the knowledge, without the tools.
OPPORTUNITY is what I want to talk to you about.
To be the best in the Pacific when dealing with DM
Why the best?
Because most other countries in this area are terrible at it.
New Guinea probably worst, Solomon Islands shocking. New Zealand progressive – Family Protection Court. Fiji?
During my time in court and during the 40 years of practice in the criminal law, I have heard all the excuses. Some will say its traditional, cultural, we’ve always done it this way.
Some men have told me I have the right to beat my wife, have sex with her, I have paid the BRIDE PRICE and therefore she is mine. Other men have told me that they are entitled to have sex with my daughter because I am the man.
4 stories from S.I.
Father charged with raping two daughters.
Excuse – I brought them up, this is my payment.
Uncle sees niece talking to a boy from another village.
Knife, cuts her hair, sexually assaults her. Excuse -Teach her a lesson.
Young girl 12 raped by her father. In giving her ev I asked if she complained to anyone. Mum. Mother called. Beat her daughter. Excuse – Brought husband’s name into disrepute.
Man walks past his brothers hut in a village. Knows the brother is out working and that his brother’s daughter is being looked after by the grandmother. He goes in finds the grandmother sleeping, and takes the opportunity to have intercourse with the daughter. Two things – 1. He had aids and he knew it, and 2. The girls was 3 years old. (2 years for indecent assault and 14 years for defilement).
Whether it’s the beetle nut, the beer, the gunja, the heat, archaic, distorted sense of values that are applied, THERE’S ALWAYS AN EXCUSE.
One father told me that in his village it was totally culturally acceptable for a husband to beat his wife or have sex with his daughters. EVEN IF THAT WAS RIGHT ONCE, YEARS AGO IN ANOTHER AGE, ITS NOT NOW. NO CHIEF OR VILLAGE ELDER HAS EVER SUPPORTED THAT EXCUSE.
But even if it was right in the past, so what? There was a time when cannibalism and eating your enemy was right and culturally acceptable. Not now. Why?
Because a culture is organic, it grows, develops and changes. It changes with knowledge, it changes with education and it changes with the change in the needs and expectations of a developing society.
Its not only in this part of the world where women have been treated as second class. I come from a European background – male child always traditionally valued higher. Look at the Chinese nation.
Hundreds of cultures, peoples, languages, traditions, religions on the planet. There are people who are black white yellow olive pink red and brown.
These things and others make us all different, differentiate us from one another, give us a sense of our history where we come from and who we are.
But of all the many things that separate us, there are many which bind us.
The number one factor that we have in common that binds us together on this blue planet, is our HUMANITY.
All of us are born with inalienable rights that no-one can give to you nor can anyone take them away. They are yours by virtue of the fact that you are human, they are part of the package. The right to food and shelter, good health, safety, the right to not be shot knifed raped or bashed.
Not one set for males and one for females.
So if that’s right, why is it that in S.I. a national study found “an alarming level of sexual violence”?
Why did 55% of women interviewed aged between 15 – 49 reveal that they had experienced sexual violence from their partner – the most common form being rape?
Why did 37% of women report that they had been sexually abused when they were UNDER THE AGE OF 15? ONE CHILD IN THREE. The majority (53%) said that the abuse had occurred more than 3 times – habitual.
As I said in New Guinea it is worse, and there are problems in every other Pacific nation, including in my country.
This is a multi-faceted problem that is bewitched by the letter ‘P’. The letter P defines both the problem and the solution.
PARENTS: - EXPERIENCE AT S.I. SCHOOLS attitude of both boys and girls reinforces prejudice
POLICE: - ATTITUDE TO VICTIMS, INVESTIGATIVE SKILLS, VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS, WITNESS STATEMENTS
PROSECUTION: - DIFFICULT TO PROSECUTE. TRAUMATISED VICTIMS, EMBARASSED WITNESSES. NEED SKILL AND TRAINING TO GET THE STORY OUT WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE LAWS PARTICULARLY LAWS OF EVID AND PROCEDURE.
PUNISHMENT – ONUS ON THE COURTS. RAPE PUNISHABLE BY LIFE!
PERPETRATORS – HAVE TO LEARN CONSEQUENCES SERIOUS
POTENTIAL PERPETRATORS – UNDERSTAND WHAT WILL HAPPEN – EXPERIENCE IN S.I. RE GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT TO VILLAGE/CHURCH/SCHOOL TALKS.
2 BIGGEST ‘P’ problems I’ve left till last.
Parliament – has to provide the courts with the ammunition and appropriate penalties in legislation.
In this regard, Fiji has developed some useful legislation including the Crimes decree and the Domestic Violence Decree both of which I’ve had the opportunity to peruse. So the tools or at least some tools are there to be used. There is in this country a clear opportunity to use them.
And that brings me to the next and final “P” which I see as the biggest problem.
The biggest ‘P’ problem is Politicians.
I said at the beginning, that I wanted to talk to you about opportunity, this is what I meant. You have the opportunity, because of your positions, because you are here, to influence to guide, to establish your country as one of the leaders not only in the Pacific, but in the world. You’re not in the positions you are in because of your looks, you’re not there to make things better for yourselves, you are there as you know to SERVE, to DO, not just to think or even just to say, but to DO. And what is obvious is that a consciousness of the problem is growing. The realisation that a great number of half of the planet’s population is mistreated, is dawning on everyone, particularly men.
The greatness of a country some believe, can be defined by its economy, or the size of its military or its inventiveness or its sporting ability. The true MEASURE of a country’s greatness is how we treat each other as human beings. A measure of a leader’s effectiveness, of a politician’s commitment and integrity, is NOT what they say. – how do you tell if a politician is lying? Its can never be what they think or say. You will leave your mark on this nation, if you leave a mark, by what you DO.
SO THE QUESTION IS - WHAT HAVE YOU DONE SO FAR?
If your answer is I’ve thought about the problem – then you’ve done very little.
If your answer is that I’ve spoken about the problem – then you’ve done very little.
And if you’ve done nothing THEN THIS MAKES YOU A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM.
If you can say to yourself that I have done these 2,3,4,or more things then you’ve got an answer.
So what do you do?
Are the police in my area doing their job? Are women victims being taken seriously, listened to, protected? Do the police know how to help? Can they take proper victim and witness statements that will help the victim if it goes to court?
Is the DPP and his prosecutors doing the right thing by victims? In other words, are cases being taken to court appropriately and are the prosecutors being given the skills necessary to prosecute these always fraught and difficult cases? Are the police prosecutors up to task of presenting cases intelligently in the lower courts?
Now I know some of you might be thinking what is he talking about, I’m far too busy to get involved in all of that. It’s inconvenient. And you know right there, is the nub of the problem. Its precisely that attitude that has enabled and even encouraged men to get away with treating women like second rate human beings for so long. If you don’t get involved, nothing will change and long after you have left office and your successors take your place, someone else will be talking to them about what they can do about DV. We (you and me) are all temporary bit players in our communities – but men and women, husbands and wives, mothers, fathers and children are forever.
Some of you men, might be thinking or, even worse, saying, it’s a woman’s problem. Please think again.
This is not a woman’s problem except in so far as they are the one’s who get the broken noses, or the broken arms, or the torn vaginas or the bruised necks.
It is just as much a child’s problem because they see the violence in the house, they hear their mother crying for hours and they hear their father screaming and bashing their mother. We know that the basis of any civilised community and in this beautiful country, is the family and a family in violent turmoil is no basis for any country to grow or build a future.
But even more than that, it is a man’s problem. Because men are the perpetrators. They are the ones, they are the cowards, they are the drunkards, the bullies, who bash the women. They are the ones who will go to jail. They are the ones who will no longer be able to fulfil their responsibilities as husbands, as fathers and as citizens of this country – a country that needs its able bodied men working and contributing to the national wealth and to the common good.
So, the individual woman, wife or mother suffers. The children suffer. The man, husband, or father suffers. The family suffers and as a result, the nation goes backwards.
Don’t tell me it’s not your problem. Don’t tell me it’s a women’s problem. It is a national problem about which the citizens are entitled to look to and expect their leaders to be working their absolute hardest to resolve and moreover it is a human problem.
Now the S.I. government made great fanfare over the fact that after a very long period of time gathering dust, Parliament finally passed the Family Protection Bill into the Family Protection Act. This set out a number of new offences and procedures in the legislation.
All very well.
But this is where the lesson is for parliamentarians present.
Without the will to allocate financial resources to set up the womens’ shelters, the safe houses for children and their mothers, the financial aid that they will need to survive, to get medical treatment, to get help from social workers, psychologists and if necessary psychiatrists to help them recuperate and recover from their, what can sometimes be years of torture and mistreatment, all of the fine sentiments in all of the legislation, don’t mean a thing.
Without the political will to DO something we are wasting our time. DOING IS A QUANTUM LEAP FROM IMAGINING.
The scale and dimensions of this problem are not simply personal, they are financial, they are social, they are national, they are international and more, they are human. It will take people with leadership, vision and courage. Are you one of them?
Harry S Truman once said -
“Men and women make history, not the other way round. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful, leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
I implore you to be those leaders, not just managers. They say that management is doing things right, but leadership is doing the right things.
THAT’S why I spoke earlier of opportunity. That’s why it is such an opportunity for you. You are in the lucky and very privileged position of being able to influence the direction of your people and your nation. DO something, act, initiate, lead.
Your countrymen and women will thank you for it, your children and future generations will thank you for it, your country will thank you for it, and you, will sleep better at night. Vinaka.
In March 2016, the Nitijela of the Republic of the Marshall Islands approved total funding of USD 40,000 to support WUTMI’s work on combating violence against women. WUTMI – Women United Together Marshall Islands – has been the leading voice in breaking the silence on violence against women in the country.
The announcement came after the Nitijela’s induction seminar held in February in Majuro. The Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) country focal officer for Marshall Islands, Tarjo Arelong, shares her reflections of the induction seminar and the key results of the event below.
The seminar took place from 22 to 26 February and was the first of its kind since the inception of the country’s constitutional government. It brought in two international partners: the United Nations Development Programme and the Pacific Community to facilitate the seminar, assisted by the Nitijela Legislative Counsel.
The Hon. Alan Griffin, Labour Federal Member in the Australian Parliament, attended the seminar and shared his experiences from the bench and his point of view as a judge. As someone who has been active in human rights issues, his input was very valuable. The MPs were very grateful for his insights and advice. He touched everyone’s heart.
The first three days focused on the constitution; Nitijela rules and procedures; roles of MPs, the speaker and the clerk; law-making processes; parliament oversight, accountability, transparency and integrity; national developments; and thematic issues.
The last two days were facilitated by the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team and focused on human rights and good governance, with Justice Stephen Pallaras QC, South Australia's former Director of Public Prosecutions and more recently Justice of the High Court in Solomon Islands, drawing on his experiences from the bench.
This induction seminar was intense and very comprehensive. It captured all the relevant issues and subject matter that a national leader should be aware of and understand. Many of the Nitijela members are new and the human rights sessions strengthened their understanding of national human rights commitments, issues, and international human rights systems.
Human rights issues of domestic violence and gender equality were discussed at length and specific questions relating to temporary special measures for women in parliament were explained and clarified.
The discussions and presentations helped the MPs to be more informed, as evidenced by their pledging to make special appropriations in their budget to give financial support to WUTMI. Several weeks later, that pledge became a reality and a USD 40,000 special appropriation was approved to support WUTMI’s work on addressing violence against women.
Key outcomes of the discussions were framed as recommendations and these will be presented to the President of Marshall Islands for further deliberation and action. The recommendations are:
Recommendation 1: That the Government of RMI consider and take the necessary steps to develop and create a national human rights action plan for RMI.
Recommendation 2: That the Government of RMI consider and take the necessary steps to: (i) develop a UPR Implementation Plan to support and guide the implementation of accepted recommendations under the UPR Process; and (ii) draft and submit its Country’s Initial and Periodic Reports under the CEDAW, CRC and CRPD Reporting Processes.
Recommendation 3: That the Government of RMI consider and take the necessary steps to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure.
Recommendation 4: That the Government of RMI consider and take the necessary steps to: (i) formulate a costed Implementation Plan for the DVPP Act; (ii) develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for the DVPP Act; (iii) promote awareness amongst and sensitisation of national leaders (elected / appointed / traditional) on the human rights and development context of violence against women; (iv) strengthen preventive measures when formulating legislative, policy and other associated measures dealing with violence against women; and (v) support like-minded civil society organisations, including WUTMI, in consolidating national efforts to address violence against women.
Recommendation 5: That the Government of RMI, through a scoping study, explore the concept and rationale for National Human Rights Mechanisms, including but not limited to the approaches taken in the Pacific, with a view to establish a National Human Rights Institution for RMI.
Participants’ awareness of human rights was raised during the induction seminar. Such awareness raising should be an ongoing activity in the country, through consultations, or by providing relevant reading materials, or in open forums.
Professor David Robie, prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Centre, shared his experiences of human rights coverage in the region and stressed the role of the news media as watchdogs at a Human Rights and Media Forum held on 13–15 April 2016 in Nadi, Fiji. Professor Robie was chief guest.
Senior journalists and government communication officers from 13 Pacific countries participated in the forum, which had the theme: Enhancing a human rights-based approach to news reporting.
“Human rights-oriented journalism is more focused on global rather than on selective reporting, with an emphasis on the vulnerable and empowerment for the affected and marginalised people - a voice for the voiceless,” Professor Robie said.
After the forum, he said “Journalists ought to be human rights defenders and bear witness to Pacific human rights violations. This forum was remarkably successful in providing the tools for a wide range of Pacific media people to bring accountability to offenders against human rights. I congratulate the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) on organising this important forum.”
The forum, which was supported by the Australian Government and European Union, released an outcomes document, reaffirming the vital role the media play and recognising the importance of strengthening news reporting, using a human rights-based approach.
The outcomes document also acknowledges the importance of building a strong relationship between government communication personnel and journalists in sharing information and the roles they play in disseminating information. This document is being formatted into a poster for newsrooms in the region.
Romulo Nayacalevu, SPC’s Human Rights Adviser, said, “The media have a powerful voice in highlighting human rights issues and concerns, and this workshop provides the opportunity for journalists to dialogue on human rights and the media. SPC is delighted to work closely with the Pacific media to support their work in human rights reporting and we are excited about the outcomes document, which provides them with tips on how to do that.”
Giving a Pacific journalist’s perspective, Stanley Simpson, Managing Director of Business Melanesia Ltd, stressed that journalists in the region are frequently victims of human rights abuses while reporting on human rights in the region.
“Pacific journalists are often young and almost always broke, some have very little life experience, they are underpaid and overworked, they get threatened and intimidated regularly, and they endure a high pressure environment.
“People like to see journalists as instruments of change, but sometimes journalists just feel that they are being used by different sides with different agendas. So often they are going through the day-to-day slog of getting a newspaper or news bulletin out – it is easy to forget that they have the potential to influence change. It is important that this is addressed and journalists understand their roles as agents of change,” he said.
Belinda Kora, News Director of Papua New Guinea FM, agreed that journalists can influence change but their reporting must be responsible.
“I keep reminding my reporters that when it comes to reporting about human rights, if your story does not impact on the lives of victims or anyone else for that matter, you are only taking up space,” Ms Kora said.
She added that, importantly, journalists need to know their rights to be able to report responsibly. “How can we journalists in the region report effectively if we don’t know our rights?” Ms Kora asked.
The three-day forum strengthened media capacity in rights-based reporting to reflect the aspirations of Pacific Island communities for equality, development and social justice, said RRRT Team Leader, Nicol Cave.
Marian Kupu of Broadcom Broadcasting Limited, Tonga, said, “I found the three-day forum very encouraging because I learnt about my country’s human rights commitments and I see my role as a journalist to report on the gaps in order to encourage decision makers to prioritise and address the issues.”
‘Giving voice to the voiceless’ and ‘championing the rights of all peoples’ were key messages highlighted at the forum.
The forum was organised by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, the Pacific Islands News Association and the Journalism Programme of the University of the South Pacific.
Nadi, Fiji – ‘Giving voice to the voiceless’ and ‘championing the rights of all peoples’ were key messages highlighted at the Human Rights and Media Forum attended this week by senior journalists and government communication officers from 13 Pacific countries.
Supported by the Australian Government and European Union, the Forum reaffirmed the vital role of media in highlighting human rights issues and the importance of news reporting with a human rights-based approach.
The Forum highlighted the importance of building strong relationships between government communication personnel and journalists in sharing and disseminating information.
An Outcomes Document will be presented in poster format for newsrooms in the region, providing practical tips for ‘rights-based reporting’.
“Human rights-oriented journalism is more focused on global instead of selective reporting, with an emphasis on the vulnerable and empowerment for the affected and marginalised people - a voice for the voiceless,” Professor David Robie, prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Pacific Centre, told participants at the opening of the Forum.
Marian Kupu of Broadcom Broadcasting Limited Tonga said, “I find the three-day forum very encouraging because I have learnt about my country’s human rights commitments and I see my role as a journalist to report on the gaps to encourage decision makers to prioritise and address the issues.”
The Forum was organised by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism.
The three-day forum has strengthened media capacity in ‘rights-based reporting’ to reflect the aspirations of Pacific island communities for equality, development and social justice, SPC’s Team Leader of RRRT, Nicol Cave, said.
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
By PM Press -
April 12, 2016
COMMENCEMENT OF THE FAMILY PROTECTION ACT
8 APRIL 2016
SOLOMON KITANO MENDANA HOTEL
Keynote Address: The Prime Minister, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare
As the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, I stand here a proud leader – proud that my Government of the Democratic Coalition for Change has demonstrated outstanding leadership in ensuring the Government’s policy for protection of Childrens rights to safety and protection from any form of violence can now be guaranteed through the application of the Family Protection Act 2014, which we are here to launch and implement from hereon.
As a Father and a Grandfather, I am also truly honoured that my children and grandchildren are assured of their safety and protection from violence.
A journey, which found its roots in the evidence provided by the Family Health and Safety Study, which was adopted by Government in 2009, has come to fruition. Solomon Islands not only has a new law that ensures the safety and protection of the family from domestic violence, but that as of 1st April 2016, the Family Protection Act 2014 has commenced and is now in force.
It is therefore my utmost pleasure to commend all of you who have come to participate in this event, which marks the official announcement of the commencement of the Family Protection Act.
I note the presence of my Ministers and as well as that of the Provincial Premiers who have joined us today to share our honourable achievement and to commit themselves to the implementation of the Act.
No culture is immune from domestic violence. In the same way, we can say that no community is immune to domestic violence; in the same we can say that no government or church organization or whatever organization by itself is immune to violence. What really matters is the leadership and the culture we breed in these organizations – if they are weak then the chances of violence becoming a common thing, becomes a worrying reality.
It therefore follows that unless we the leaders of these communities and organizations are prepared to take a bold stand to say “No to Violence”, the enforcement of the Act will follow the trend many other pieces of legislation have also found themselves in the past – they remain mere legal instruments useful only to the shelves, which also have become their home over the years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To have the Family Protection Act in its legal form is an incredible milestone and a key achievement by my Government.
The fundamental purpose of the Act is to ensure that all homes and communities are peaceful and safe for all members of the family; by making certain that there is adequate protection for affected family members and to facilitate enforcement, and ensure sustainability of such protection over time.
The Act not only defines domestic violence but also makes domestic violence an offence that is punishable by fine or a prison sentence. What we normally regard as a private matter is now no longer the case.
The Family Protection Act ensures that perpetrators face the full force of the law if they decide to unleash their wrath on any member of the family, or abuse a family member through other forms of violence.
The Act provides preventative measures so that violent behaviour and violent persons can be stopped in their tracks, before they have the chance to inflict further harm on the innocent and vulnerable members of their families.
The Act is innovative in that it does not create new institutions or create new powers. Rather, the Act enhances current powers of the Police, current powers of the Courts and current duties of stakeholders that have a mandate to stop domestic violence and articulates them so that they are accessible for all citizens and visitors of this country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Family Protection Act has gone through a long consultation and challenging process at the Bill stage. This was to ensure that it meets the requirements of our international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as those requirements that are suitable to the Solomon Islands context. As such, the Act takes into account the available resources and skills in the community, the existing formal justice system, and the religious and customary practices of our people. Development of the Family Protection Act has also ensured that human rights and gender perspectives dictate its design and purpose.
On this note, it is my utmost pleasure to commend the key role played by the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs and the Ministry of Police and National Security in leading the process towards the passage and the commencement of the Family Protection Act.
I should also applaud the SPC Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and the Government of Australia through DFAT for providing the technical expertise and guidance in the development and design of the Act.
To the FPA Legislative Working Group, I salute you for your unwavering support in ensuring that Government fulfils its policy obligation to put in place a law on domestic violence, as well as for making sure that the Family Protection Act effectively protects family members from violence.
It would be remiss of me not to make mention of the national and provincial government bodies, development partners, members of the civil society, and the many groups and individuals who have been consulted far and wide throughout Solomon Islands and abroad and whose voice the Act resonates both in its design, effect and purpose.
Beyond that, I should also acknowledge previous governments for taking the bold step in making certain that a sensitively charged subject is given the recognition it deserves.
Without the Family Health and Safety Study, National Policy on Eliminating Violence against Women, the reform undertaken by the Law Reform Commission on sexual violence, what we have come to celebrate today may still be a long way from getting to this stage. Your vision, efforts, support and contributions have paid off. Solomon Islanders have spoken and we have responded to that call. Well done!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we all know, family violence stands in direct contradiction to our affirmation as a society that we are a peace loving people and that the unity of the family is central to our lives.
The evidence, which stares us in the face from various researches, statistics and daily experiences paint a very different picture. Two out of every 3 women in Solomon Islands are affected by violence in the home mostly by people they look up to, love and trust.
According to the Family Health and Safety Study, women who have experienced intimate partner violence are more likely to have children who are also abused than those who have not experienced partner violence. Far too often, crimes go unpunished and perpetrators walk free. This is unacceptable and we should not condone it as “normal run nomoa”. Violence in the home must be stopped! Victims must be protected! Perpetrators must be punished!
As a society, we have for too long tolerated, excused and justified domestic violence. This means that for a lot of people, accepting violence in the family is entrenched in them.
There is need for awareness at all levels of our Solomon Islands community to help our people understand that domestic violence is harmful for the community, and that its consequences are intergenerational. Now that the Family Protection Advisory Council has been set up, I am sure it will see to it that implementation of the Act is constantly monitored and that reporting to Government and to Parliament on progress is done in a timely and efficient manner.
No one sector can adequately address domestic violence or family violence for that matter. The causes and consequences of domestic violence come to us in different colours, shapes and sizes and are complex in their manifestations.
To that effect, I cannot over emphasize the critical importance of working together to ensure that the Act is fully implemented and serves its purpose.
All of our efforts put together to address this scourge must be the way to go. We have proven that together we can do it. The development of this Act has been a result of collaborations and partnerships. Its completion has been possible through sheer stamina and drive by our many partners and individuals working collectively.
By way of closing, let me re-affirm my government’s commitment to strengthening and supporting gender equality through the elimination of gender based violence and child abuse. The reason is simple.
Domestic violence is a human rights problem; it affects the personal security of persons, the right to life, and the right to lead full lives free from oppression. Women and girls suffer the most from domestic violence; and therefore to be successful in the application of this Act; we must recognise that gender equality and non-discrimination are essential elements for a united, progressive and peaceful co-existence in our society.
Similarly, my Government is committed to strengthening the National Judicial and Legal System and Apparatus in the Country. Effective enforcement of the Family Protection Act is dependent on these key areas being reinforced by government through relevant ministries including the key ministries responsible for the Act.
I am also pleased to say that the FPA does not sit in isolation of other national legislation that is now enforced such as the Police Act. The Government’s legal reform programme will result in laws that compliment the functions of the Family Protection Act. As I speak, the Parliamentary Bills and Legislative Committee is now in the process of scrutinizing the Bill on Sexual Offences in the Penal Code. Also the Child and Family Welfare Bill is now in the completion stage. There is a strong likelihood that both Bills will be tabled before Parliament in its coming sitting in April . Enforcement of these laws guarantee a high success rate in the implementation of the Family Protection Act. I am proud to be part of this event as I’m sure many of you are as well. We are all members of a family unit and a large extended family.
Let us rise up and stand with the Family Protection Act by encouraging our family members and those in our community to report any incident of abuse against them or a family member.
At the end of the day, the Act only kicks in when a case is being reported. We can carve out and enjoy the best systems in the world but if we are not willing to report cases of abuse, the church, custom or state will not be able to deal with you. It is my fervent hope that implementation of the Family Protection Act will be supported in every way possible and that we will use the Act to stand for our rights so as to be assured of a present and a future that is peaceful, secure and prosperous.
Thank you one and all!
JOINT MEDIA ALERT
Nadi, Fiji - ‘Giving voice to the voiceless’ and ‘championing the rights of all peoples’ will be among the key messages highlighted at a regional human rights and media forum, in Nadi, Fiji, this week for senior journalists and government communication officers from 13 Pacific countries.
This event which was postponed in late February due to tropical cyclone Winston, will now be held from 13-15 April.
The Enhancing a Human Rights-based Approach to News Reporting Forum is organised by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism Programme at the Tanoa Skylodge Hotel.
The event is supported by the Australian Government and the European Union.
The event aims to strengthen media capacity in ‘rights-based reporting’ to reflect the realities and aspirations of Pacific island communities for equality, development and social justice.
Prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Pacific Centre, Professor David Robie will be chief guest at the event and will share his experiences of human rights coverage in the region.
RRRT is the Pacific Community’s human rights program, working to build a rights-based culture, and assisting nation states to commit to and observe international human rights standards.
MEDIA ACCESS: Media are invited to cover the event from 9am to 4.30pm for the duration of the forum. The twitter hashtag for the forum is #PacMedia4HR.
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
Honiara, Solomon Islands – Justice-sector providers in Solomon Islands are better informed and prepared to address domestic violence through the country’s Family Protection Act that is expected to come into force in the first half of 2016.
This follows consultations staged last week by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, involving lawyers, members of the judiciary, police, social and health workers.
The consultations, led by SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), were supported by the Australian Government and UN Women and examined strategies to strengthen the existing systems to support the prevention and protection measures against domestic violence set out in the Act.
Practical suggestions on coordinated responses, such as strengthening the coordination between the courts and frontline service providers in sharing information to tackle domestic violence cases, emerged as the key players deliberated their roles in the implementation of the Act.
Permanent Secretary of Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, Ethel Sigimanu, said the country’s Family Protection Act reflects the government’s commitment to end violence in the home.
“The Act provides hope for peace in homes, communities and our country. There was much rejoicing when it was passed, and the time has now come for us to again put our minds together and discuss strategies on how we’re going to implement the Act,” Ms Sigimanu said.
The Act defines and criminalizes domestic violence. It prescribes police duties in responding to domestic violence and allows family members – men and women and those who are defined as family members in the Act – to apply for protection orders from the Court.
The Act also recognises that domestic violence is best addressed through a coordinated legal and social response.
For police officer Allan Supa, the consultation last week broadened his understanding of human rights and the new legislation.
“I plan to assist the Community Policing Team, a unit within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, to carry out awareness programmes in the communities.”
A registered nurse with the Honiara City Council Clinic, Esther Nevenga, is excited about the opportunity.
“I will be able to assist clients that are facing domestic violence issues and also refer them to supporting centres like the police, Christian Care Center, Social Welfare and Family Support Centre in Honiara. I will also give more awareness to the communities in and around my clinic catchment on what is domestic violence,” Ms Nevenga said.
SPC’s support to the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act commenced as far back as 2009 with trainings for Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs staff, the placement of a staff within the Ministry to support the initial work on the ground in 2009 to 2012, the set-up of the Violence Against Women (VAW) Legislative Task Force in 2010, the development of drafting instructions based on international best practice standards in VAW legislation in 2010 and 2011, public consultations on the Bill in 2011 to 2012, drafting of the Bill in 2013 to 2014, drafting the implementation plan and briefing the members of parliament about the Bill in the months and weeks before the Bill was finally passed.
SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island member countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.
Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
Leadership, wage gaps, safety, health and care work are five areas of gender disparity in the Pacific islands region that require innovative action given their profound effects on societies and individuals.
That is the message from the Pacific Community (SPC) as the region marks International Women’s Day today (8 March).
In line with the international theme for the day “Pledge for Parity”, SPC is calling for greater debate on ways of closing gender gaps in the Pacific and concrete ways of addressing them.
Despite critical advances, Pacific women and girls are still faced with cultural, social, economic and institutional barriers to developing their full potential, according to a progress report on implementing the Beijing Platform for Actionreleased by SPC in 2015.
“The Pacific Community is committed to ensuring that Pacific people benefit from sustainable economic development, are empowered and live long and healthy lives, regardless of their gender,” Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.
“Parity should be promoted at all levels and in all sectors, from public governance to changing nappies.
“From local contexts to the international arena, Pacific women and men are hard at work to shape more egalitarian societies and their efforts should continue to be acknowledged and supported through responsive policies and programmes.
“To see Hilda Heine’s election as President of the Republic of Marshall Islands, which represented the first election of a female head of state in a Pacific Island country, and the recent appointment of Fiame Naomi Mata'afa as Samoa's first female deputy prime minister is extremely encouraging.
“We also need to look at risks Pacific people face from a gender perspective, from non-communicable diseases to women’s unacceptable exposure to domestic violence or men’s vulnerability to road injuries, because those risks stem from the roles and attitudes expected from men and women,” Dr Tukuitonga added.
Data shows that diabetes prevalence in the Pacific Island region is higher among women than men, with the exception of Solomon Islands and Niue, according to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
The region-wide epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is aggravating the burden of care that women already face, with evidence of women leaving the workforce to provide full-time care to family members.
The resulting social, cultural and economic impacts on the lives of women and their families are staggering, and are likely to challenge some of the progress made on women’s advancement.
The themes will be the focus of dialogues taking place today at SPC offices in Noumea and Suva.
Media contacts: Brigitte Leduc, SPC Gender Equality Adviser, [email protected]
Lauren Robinson Acting Media Relations Team Leader, [email protected] or +679 337 9250