(21 Feb 2012)
"We should not close our eyes to this huge problem before us, but we need to work together to combat the scourge of gender-based violence", was the reflection of Bishop Paini Mafi, the Chair of the TNFCL and Head of the Roman Catholic Church of Tonga and Niue on the objectives of a ½ day consultation for Heads of Churches in Tonga, on the proposed changes to legislation to better protect women and children from violence, held in Nuku'alofa yesterday, 21 February 2012.
He also stressed that "as leaders of our churches we ought to be at the forefront of current issues such as violence against women and children, which are affecting not only the members of our churches but also our country. We should not just read the bible but read also daily newspapers and other important documents so that we are better informed of the current issues in order to implement our roles more effectively," said Bishop Mafi.
The consultation intended to seek from church leaders their views on the proposed changes to the legislation to better protect women and children from violence. It provided opportunities for church leaders to share their views and concerns on proposed changes that might challenge Christian values.
It was raised by one church Minister that the law should strictly follow the guidance of the bible. As such, he suggested that the definition of 'spouse' should not include any relationship outside legal marriage because it is a sin.
In response to queries raised about the main causes of violence against women and children, the main cause according to victims that have sought assistance from the Women and Children Crisis Centre was predominantly due to the unequal dominant and over powerful roles of males in the home.
This unequal force of power is exerted on women when they are jealous and over possessive of their wives. Other causes mentioned included the effects of alcohol as well as the negative influence of in-laws and family.
In his concluding remarks representing the Heads of churches, the chair of Church Forum, Bishop Mafi, commended the work that is being undertaken by the Women's Affairs and various women organizations in this important project.
He also assured the full support of the church leaders and their willingness to work together with government and other stakeholders in all initiatives that aim to end violence against women and children.
The consultation was organized by the Women's Affairs, Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture , Secretariat of the Taskforce of Violence Against Women, and Country Focal Officer for RRRT/SPC and supported by the Women and Children Crisis Centre and the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children.
For more information please contact Lepolo Taunisila [email protected], Women's Affairs Division, MEWAC, phone 27-145.