Public prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement officers in the Marshall Islands participated in a two day training (30 July to 1 August) aimed at strengthening their role in the implementation of the country’s 2011 Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act.
The Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act came into force in 2011 and provides protection orders to assist those that are affected by family violence and ensures their safety. It defines and criminalises domestic violence, namely any physical, sexual, psychological, or economic abuse against family members.
The workshop, led by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and supported by the Government of Australia and the Government of Sweden, was conducted to strengthen the capacity of prosecutors in undertaking their roles as set out under the legislation.
Family Health and Safety studies on violence against women conducted in various pacific countries have confirmed high rates of intimate partner violence occurring and also revealed that current legislation in the countries is not adequately responding to this violation of people’s human rights.
In the Pacific region over 60% of women in intimate partner relationships continue to face violence and in the case of the Marshal Islands, the National Study on Family Health Safety highlighted that 48% of the women that were interviewed had experienced physical violence in their lifetime.
“Since 2011 the Marshall Islands Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act has provided protection mechanisms for those that are experiencing domestic violence. RRRT’s core work has been supporting countries to develop domestic violence or family protection legislation and we are now working with the countries to focus on the implementation of these legislation,” says RRRT Senior Human Rights Adviser, Ms Neomai Maravuakula who facilitated the training.
In his opening remarks, the Marshal Islands Minister for Justice, Jack J. Adding said, “I’m very pleased to see this workshop begin, as it not only promises to sharpen the skills of our prosecutors but it will also help bring to focus all the other issues that may hinder the effective and efficient prosecution of domestic violence crimes.” The Minister further added that, “if we were to really understand domestic violence, we will know that it goes against our culture and our faith.”
During the training, participants: discussed the concepts of gender and human rights and how this is linked to domestic violence; explored the definition and different elements of domestic violence as set out in the Act; and unpacked key provisions of the Act, examining the protection mechanisms provided under the Act and the application process for protection orders.
Participants also took part in practical exercises to understand the interviewing process and the support for survivors of domestic violence as they provide information, particularly on how to obtain information with minimum harm towards the survivor as well as discussed the challenges that may be faced through this process and how this could be minimised.
This training is part of RRRT’s regional judicial strengthening programme which provides tailor-made training programmes to support judges, magistrates, lawyers and prosecutors in implementing family violence legislation. In 2017, RRRT worked with the Chief Justice to support the Marshall Islands District and Community Court Judges to get a better understanding of the DVPPA. In recognition of the need for continuous engagement with justice actors, RRRT provides on-going support after initial consultations to collect data and develop judicial tools, and offers follow up training, as needed.
Since 2008, 12 countries including the Marshall Islands and two of the states in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) have passed domestic violence legislation.
Onorina Saukelo, RRRT Communications Assistant, [email protected] or +679 330 5582