Friday 6 March 2009, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, New York
Pacific Island governments need to make a concerted effort to address Pacific laws on violence against women which are outdated and which treat people with indifference and contempt.
Secretariat of the Pacific Community/Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC/RRRT) Human Rights Advisor, Imrana Jalal told members of the Pacific Island Forum grouping at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women currently taking place in New York that a handful of countries were making some progress.
Jalal was speaking to a private meeting of PIC government representatives at UN headquarters.
"Only Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands and more recently, Vanuatu had made any progress in changing outdated and discriminatory laws and interpretations. PNG and the RMI had made changes to sexual assault laws but not Domestic Violence and Family Law; whilst Vanuatu had addressed the issue of Domestic Violence."
Jalal is the Chair of the UN Expert Group on Best Practices on Violence against Women Legislation, which focuses on best practices from around the globe on laws relating to Violence Against Women (VAW).
She told government members present at UNCSW09 that RRRT/SPC had won a grant of money from the UNIFEM Trust Fund; a global competition of over 1000 applicants to address VAW in partnership with PIC government and Non-Government Organisations. RRRT was the only Pacific organisation to win one out of 20 grants available.
Jalal told PIC leaders present in New York, the grant focused on addressing the issue of legislation specifically and RRRTs effort is meant to build on the groundwork already laid by organisations such the FWCC pacific network on VAW.
"NGO partnership is critical otherwise the effort would fail. In most PICs the best legislation was driven by NGOs dedicated to its passing."
The UNIFEM Trust Fund Pacific project would tie in with the Expert Group's findings on best practices globally. Jalal said that in fact the best legislation at least on paper, was emanating from the developing world not the developed world, citing Mexico, Albania and India as examples.
She said that compared to global standards Vanuatu's new DV law was although far from perfect "pretty decent legislation" . Jalal said there were no perfect laws in the arena of human relationships.
Jalal said that the goal of the goal of the project was
"Changing Laws, Protecting Women; lobbying for legislative change in violence against women / family law in order to enhance protective legislation for women and girls in 6 PICTs" (recognises that laws are not the be all and end all but can be an effective catalyst of social change as well)
Jalal said that the MAIN PRACTICAL GOAL – was establishing joint GOV/NGO Legislative Action groups in 6 PICTs first, others later which will be the main driving force behind comprehensive VAW legislation.