Response needed to sex industry in Tonga

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) is calling for a strong response to a woman facing charges in Tonga this week charged with sex trafficking, running a brothel and trading in prostitution. The trafficking concerned two Chinese women – aged 29 and 33 years – who were told that they would work in a hotel, but when they arrived they were forced into prostitution.
Director of the WCCC, Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-likiliki said, “We feel for the women who were brought here under false pretences and placed in a very dangerous situation. With no passports or work, they felt that they did not have the right to report what is very obviously a serious crime. Male demand for a supply of women and children is the root cause for prostitution and trafficking.  Gender inequality, globalisation and poverty, racisim, migration and the collapse of women’s economic stability are global factors which create the conditions in which women are driven into the sex industry”
The majority of trafficked persons are women and girls.  Mulitple forms of discrimination and conditions of disadvantage contribute to the vulnerability of women and girls being driven into prostitution.
The Crisis Centre is gravely concerned for all involved in the crime, but believes it is time that the Kingdom also opened its eyes about the real situation of prostitution in Tonga. WCCC Director, Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-likiliki said “Prostitution certainly takes place in our community. It’s not fair to label it as a foreign import  – if we are not careful our our women and girls may also be trafficked elswhere and become victims of violent sexual abuse.”
Prostitution places women in a very vulnerable position – women often are subject to high levels of abuse from clients and brothel owners and the sex workers are exposed to long term health problems, such as a heightened risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. “It is time we started talking about how we can improve this situation. Service providers, Government institutions and the judiciary need to work together to develop a response that acknowledges that a sex industry exists in Tonga” said Guttenbeil Likiliki. Currently no legislation exists regarding specific anti-trafficking laws in Tonga.
The global sex industry is a massive profit making enterprise based on the marketing of women and girls. The sexual exploitation of women and gilrs in international prostitution and trafficking networks has become one of the major aspects of transnational organised crime. Unlike guns and crime women and children can be sold multiple ways for profit and the criminals receive less punishment and shorter sentences.

All service providers need to make it clear that there are places where sex workers can seek help – without judgement. Guttenbeil-Likiliki urges people to let others know that services are available “the WCCC works extensively with translators – the Crisis Centre is for all women and children who need help, regardless of their nationality, everyone is welcome.” The Crisis Centre has a 24-hour emergency line and conducts mobile pick-ups: call 222 40.


Support for sentencing of senior police officer jailed for assault

The Women and Children Crisis Centre supports the sentencing of the long-serving senior Police Officer, Viliami Toki, for assaulting and injuring a man in custody in 2008.


“It is a clear sign that those under custody of the state have rights that must be respected” said WCCC director, Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-likiliki. “No matter what an individual is in custody for, basic human rights must be upheld”


Toki was charged with three incidents of causing bodily harm and two common assault charges. “The witness accounts showed that the treatment of the prisoner was inhumane – using handcuffs that were too tight, not allowing him to go to the bathroom, and subjecting him to assault” said Guttenbeil Likiliki.


The Crisis Centre works to eliminate all forms of violence in the Kingdom by performing community awareness, counselling, advocacy and legal support to survivors of violence. The centre Director, ‘Ofakilevka Guttenbeil-likiliki is quick to point out that the elimination of violence applies to the Police force as well. “We are witnessing a move towards a more accountable Police force in Tonga which the centre absolutely supports. Those within the force who stood as witnesses in this trial should be commended.”


Currently the Ministry of Police are developing a response to domestic violence policy. “This is a fantastic move for the Kingdom – a first for Tonga – and I hope that it will develop into a broader policy of zero tolerance to violence within the police force” said Guttenbeil -likiliki.


Having a transparent and accountable police force means that law and order across all levels of society will be enforced. “In the current economic climate, the police force must consider the long term implications that their actions could have. They enforce the law, but they are not above it. It’s the right time for a sentence like this one to be handed down” said Guttenbeil-likiliki.

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Reconciliation or Rule of Law?

If a man by the name of Sione beats another male outside a bar or at his workplace, bashes the male victim on the head, urinates on him and then rapes him – what do you think will happen to Sione?


If Sione goes and robs a bank in Nuku’alofa and smashes a few of the employees while doing it, what do you think will happen to Sione?
If Sione swears and verbally abuses his colleagues at work or his employer and throws a cup at his employer or work collegue – what do you think will happen to Sione?

It is highly likely that Sione will be pressed with charges and inevitably Sione will appear in court to face charges.
Now if the same Sione treats his wife and children with the same behaviour at home – what do you think will happen to Sione?
Evidence indicates that reconciliation between Sione and his family will be urged. This pressure to reconcile comes from all parts of society – the extended family, the Police, the Church, the economy and even the law which is not specifically designed to deal with family violence. The result of this is that the charges made against her violent husband, partner or male perpetrator are dropped – preventing the case from reaching court.
If is it a case of pro-reconciliation, the question is: what kind of a relationship are we re-uniting? Abusive relationships are based on a power and control dynamic, in which both parties are not viewed as equals. Research has indicated that the cycle of violence – in which a process of tension building, abuse, and reconciliation takes place – will continue unless something is done to break this pattern. As reconciliation is a part of this process, should we really be encouraging it? Police and Crown Law see perpetrators who reconcile being reported again, and cycling through the court process, again and again and again. We are wasting time, resources and causing a lot of stress for those involved.

Of the 2,753 women who have reported physical abuse to the Police since the year 2000, less than half – 1304 (47%) have ended up in convictions. It is common to see the perpetrators who go through the court system and end up with a reconciliation outcome back in the box, wasting the time and resources of the court.  Then consider the number
of unreported cases that obviously do not make it to court. 80% of WCCC clients report that pressure to reconcile is the primary reason that they have returned to an abusive relationship. It is clear that committing crimes against those in your own home are less likely to be convicted than those committed against other parties.

The prevailing question in all of this: is justice being served? Can we really call this situation fair?

Are the crimes that Sione commits against his family any less than the crimes he commits against a person he is not in a domestic relationship with? Dare I suggest that the vulnerability of women and children makes this crime even more serious?
We need to stop viewing violence against women and children as minor crimes – crimes that can be solved outside the rule of law. The effects of domestic violence, sexual assault and rape are long lasting and serious and we need to have institutions that recognise the severity of these crimes.

It is simply not acceptable to resolve these issues in a way that causes the “least harm” to the family unit, because in effect this protects the perpetrator from receiving justice for the crimes that they have committed. It is not acceptable to use excuses such as “the perpetrator was provoked” or that “she was asking for it”.

Part of the reconciliation process should in fact include the process and procedures of the rule of law.  The No Drop Policy of the Ministry of Police is part of this process.  Going to court and facing charges does not necessarily mean the break up of the family unit – it may however turn out a more positive outcome for the family, where the perpetrator acknowledges what he did is wrong and that he needs to face the consequences and prove to his family that he is willing to be a better person.

It sounds obvious but think about why the following statement needs to be said – violence against women and children is a crime. It is time the community recognised the severity of crimes in the home.

I-YEL successfully launched!

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) yesterday launched its pilot program Inspiring Young Empowered Leaders (I-YEL) 2010-2011 In-take at the Fanga Free Weslyan Church Hall with 20 young women between the ages of 18-35.

The pilot I-YEL program will run over a period of 12 months and will aim to encourage, prepare and challenge young people from diverse backgrounds to be advocates for human rights with a special focus on women and children’s rights, social justice, gender equality and the overall goal of promoting the elimination of violence against women and children.

Part of the I-YEL program is the Ta’okete (big sister) Mentoring program.  This is where each of the young girls are given the opportunity to team up with another inspiring female leader in Tonga who can and is willing to provide one-on-one mentoring and coaching, particularly if the mentor has a career path that the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-take aspires to follow.

Director of the WCCC, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki told the group of I-YEL recruits and mentors yesterday that the I-YEL program is part of the WCCC’s prevention strategies in their overall goal in eliminating violence against women and children, “through leadership development, career exploration and vision-setting, we hope that the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-take will be equipped with the appropriate skills to make wiser decisions – decisions that will help them live a life free from violence and abuse and to promote gender equality throughout Tonga.”

The 20 young women launched the program by presenting brief All About Me charts which included their vision for the development of Tonga.  Some of these visions included women’s right to own land, ending deforestation in Ha’apai, public transportation safety, increasing the number of women in parliament, addressing inflation, gender equality and the elimination of violence against women and children.

One of the highlights of the presentations was the opportunity for the 2010-2011 in-takes to identify role models – whilst the majority of the young women selected family members and the mentors taking part of the I-YEL program, there were some notable regional and international names that popped up “Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa and Shamima Ali.”

Over the next 12 month period, the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-takes will take part in informative sessions on issues that they have identified as well as core activities that will involve public interaction such as the I-YEL Voters Education amongst 18-35 olds, the I-YEL Girls Ask Campaign, public debate, public speech, I-YEL roundtable and the 16 days of activism.

The first recruit of I-YEL women and their mentors, as listed below.







Alaviola Maka School Program Manager Meleane Tonga (Tupou Tertiary Institute)
Asela Sauaki Human Rights Advocate Betty Blake (Ma’a Fafine mo e Famili MFF)
Foketi Kavapele Crisis Counselor Women and Children Crisis Centre Counselors (WCCC)
Leata Hoeft


Teacher/Principal Dr. ‘Ungatea Fonua Kata (Prinicpal, Tupou High School)
Fe’ao Halangahu


Lawyer Dana Stephenson (Stephenson and Associates)
Louisa Samani Women Rights Advocate and Researcher Lepolo Taunisila (Women’s Rights Advocate / RRRT/SPC Country Focal Officer)
‘Ofa Fonofehi Political Journalist Mele Amanaki (Editor, Ko e Kakai, Human Rights Activist)
Silioti Lausi’I


Aviation Lasale Cocker (Ministry of Aviation)to be confirmed
Taufa’ila Fonokalafi


Economist Vika Fusimalohi (Economist) to be confirmed
Sia Adams


Newspaper Editor Josie Latu (Contributing Editor, Pacific Media Watch)


Kilisitina Pifeleti


Accountant Aloma Johansson (R. Albin Johansson & Co)
Vika ‘Akauola Youth Leader Vanessa Lolohea (Director, Tonga National Youth Congress)
Peta Hoeft Business / Marketing Monalisa Palu (Professional PR)
‘Ofa Funaki National Security Fuatapu Halangahu (Tonga Defence Services, one of the first female Officers of the TDS)
Siaila Jagroop Creative Writer Karlo Mila Schaaf (Creative Writer, NZ mentor by email)
Tupou Paseka Life skills Sr, Anuncia Fifita (WCCC Safe House Manager)


Racheal Langi Journalist Katalina Tohi (88.1FM) to be confirmed
Soana Haukoloa Community Programs/Communications Siale ‘Ilolahia (Director, Civil Society of Tonga)
Mena Samani Marine Conservation Officer Oka Tu’umoto’oa (JICA Marine Project) to be confirmed
Soana  Pongi Social Worker Nesi ‘Aho (Social Worker) to be confirmed
Lute Takau Lawyer Lesina Tonga (private legal practitioner)
Tepi ‘Ofahulu ICT’s Leeanne and Michelle


Just some of things said by the I-YEL 2010-2011 in-takes at the launch……..

  • “I want to start up the first public library in Tonga”
  • “I want our parliament of be gender balanced”
  • “We need to stop deforestation in Ha’apai”
  • “I want to own my OWN land and register it under my OWN name”
  • “I want to live in a country to that doesn’t condone any type of violence especially violence towards women”
  • “I am a Marxist Feminist”
  • “Just believing in ourselves and what we are capable of is the first step”
  • “I believe in the rights of women and children”
  • “I want to be a good reporter”
  • “My mother raised me and my siblings on her own and she is my number one mentor”
  • “I want to help make Tonga a better place for women and girls to live in”
  • “We need to look at the connection between rising inflation and crime”
  • “I want to keep my own family name even when I get married”
  • “We are the future leaders of Tonga, it all begins here”

And from the mentors…..

  • “I wish that I had a mentor program like this 20 years ago because I’m sure it would have gotten me to where I am now a lot earlier – The sky is the limit and don’t let anyone tell you any different”
  • “I can see me in a lot of you many many years ago when I was young and ready to enter the world”
  • “If I can do it – you can do it!  Anything is possible”
  • “I entered the Tonga Defence Service because I wanted to make a difference and strive for gender equality within the TDS”
  • “We’re committed to make this happen – so if you show us your commitment we’ll take it all the way…”