Press Release – 15 December 2009
'Violence against women costs the Australian economy close to $8.1 billion per year,' said Queensland's Attorney General Hon.
Cameron Dick MP at the opening of an annual consultation with regional members of parliament in Brisbane, Australia held by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC / RRRT).
'In Fiji, the Governor of the Reserve Bank estimated in 2004 that the direct costs of domestic violence was about $300 million a year, which was about 7% of GDP,' said Dick.
Twenty-five MPs from Tonga, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati attended this year's event, which focused on violence against women legislation.
The Attorney General stated that he was 'pleased that so many fellow parliamentarians from the Pacific Island countries have shown their commitment to improving the lives of Pacific people.' He made the comments in light of the recent data revealing extremely high prevalence rates of violence against women in the Pacific.
Both Kiribati and Solomon Islands were amongst the countries with the highest rates in a 17-country study by the World Health Organisation. In this study, only Ethiopia and Peru surpassed Kiribati and Solomon Islands in prevalence rates. PNG, Fiji Islands and Samoa have also been shown to have high prevalence rates in other studies.
In a conference room packed with members of parliament from nine Pacific countries, Queensland's Attorney General quoted the recent Cairns Communiqué in which Forum Leaders addressed the issue of sexual and gender-based violence and called for a range of measures to address it, including legal measures.
The Hon. Cameron Dick reiterated the stance taken by the Forum leaders by acknowledging that sexual and gender-based violence 'is now widely recognised as a risk to human security and a potential destabilising factor for communities and societies alike.'
The acknowledgment from Forum leaders is 'most welcome', he said because violence against women is a serious global problem that affects every country.
In 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling on all member states and the United Nations system to intensify efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Such violence has compounding human rights implications; causing trauma to women, families and communities. Sexual and gender-based violence is both a symptom and a cause of gender inequality and discrimination.
The Minister of Justice from the Republic of Nauru, Hon. Matthew Batsiua, stated
'it is necessary for regional leaders to consult on issues of violence, especially when it is perpetrated against vulnerable people like women and children because the statistics do show that it is a prevalent problem with damaging consequences.'
The Hon. Cameron Dick once served as the Attorney General of Tuvalu and was quite proud of that fact. He jokingly said that
'Tuvalu recognised talent when it saw it.'
He also said that he was proud that Tuvalu was 'mixing it with the big guns in Copenhagen.' The consultation in Brisbane will also discuss human rights implications of climate change.
The members of parliament have a week to look at human rights issues, including violence against women and HIV legislation, the new compulsory Universal Periodic Review process and the potential of a regional human rights mechanism to serve the needs of Pacific Island governments and peoples.
The consultation is funded and supported by SPC / RRRT, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid), the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund.
The Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) is a programme under the Social Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. For more information regarding this event, please contact Gwen Philips at [email protected] or Imrana Jalal at [email protected].