10 December 2013
Suva – To mark International Human Rights Day today, 10 December 2014, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is partnering with government ministries in the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu, to present individuals and organisations with Human Rights Awards.
‘The National Human Rights Awards initiative is aimed at rewarding and celebrating outstanding work in human rights in the Pacific region and also to send a clear message to human rights defenders that the Pacific community is grateful for, and supports, their tireless efforts to promote human rights for all,’ the Deputy Director of SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), Mark Atterton, said.
The theme for the awards is ‘human rights in everyday life’, which covers many aspects of our daily lives, including rights to food, shelter, education, health, protection, freedom of expression and many more.
The Pacific is not immune to human rights violations, with violence against women a critical concern for the region. According to studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with SPC, the Pacific region has some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.
National studies in 2009 and 2010, in Samoa, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu, indicate that the rates of intimate partner violence are as high as 60 to 70%. Inadequate laws and policies fail to protect women and their families, and impact adversely on the development of a country.
At a recent SPC-RRRT regional lawyers’ consultation, former high court judge in Fiji, Madam Mere Pulea, encouraged lawyers of the region to ‘be at the forefront to challenge inequalities and discrimination faced by women, and to play a critical role for the benefit of society.’
‘The need to champion gender equality is pivotal to the development and realisation of human rights, and to sustainable development in the region,’ said Mark Atterton.
SPC RRRT won the prestigious UNICEF Maurice Pate Award in 1998 for its pioneering work in promoting human rights education for women and children in the Pacific. Since then, SPC RRRT has been offering the Pacific Human Rights Awards to encourage the development of a human rights culture that will protect the rights and promote the well-being of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
The 2014 national awards include:
Special recognition for highlighting the right to religion through the documentation of Catechist Tikarerei Takirua’s life story of service to the people of Kiribati.
Special recognition for highlighting the right to marriage and to be free from violence through poetry.
Special recognition for highlighting the right to participate in any community activities without distinction of any kind such as sex, colour, race, religion or other status.
Special recognition for promoting the right of a child to education in Samoa, including children with disabilities, through role play.
Deborah Jacinta Leu’o
Special recognition for promoting human rights in Samoa through creative drawing.
Special recognition for highlighting the rights of persons with disabilities through the documentation of her personal life story.
Special recognition for highlighting the right to education through creative writing.
Special recognition for promoting the right to education for children with disabilities in Samoa, through visual art.
Piu Maneralokina Filipo
Special recognition for highlighting human rights through creative writing.
Samoa Fa’afafine Association
In recognition of the contribution to the promotion of the human rights of marginalised groups, including Fa’afafine and LGBTI groups in Samoa.
Samoa National Youth Council
Special recognition for promoting the right to be heard and of freedom of expression in Samoa through audio visual arts.
Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust
Contribution to advancing the right to freedom from discrimination of Samoan deportees rehabilitating in the community and in community outreach programmes.
Sinalaua Papatoetoe Tupolo
Special recognition for highlighting the right to education, respect and equality through the documentation of her personal life story.
Special recognition for highlighting the right of children to social protection through creative writing.
Tiapapata Art Centre
Special recognition for advancing the right to develop life skills and the right to participate in cultural life, through the Breakthrough initiative, aimed at supporting people affected by trauma and abuse.
Br. Gorge Van Der Sant
Special recognition for contribution to advancing the right to education for young persons with disabilities in Solomon Islands.
Community Based Rehabilitation Unit
Special recognition for contribution to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in Solomon Islands.
Women and Children Crisis Centre
Special recognition for advancing the rights of girls in Tonga to be free from domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Special recognition for highlighting the rights of single mothers to education and to be respected with equal opportunity.
Special recognition for highlighting the right to employment and family support in Tonga.
Fusi Alofa Association
Special Recognition for contribution to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in Tuvalu.
Talafai Youth Group
Special recognition for contribution to advancing the rights of children to education through support to pre-school building construction on the island of Nanumago, Tuvalu.
SPC RRRT works to build a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. SPC RRRT is a programme under the Social Development Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and is funded by the Australian Government.
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The Crisis Centre has been producing innovative TV spots, documentaries and short films to promote the experiences of women and children in Tonga.
Sometimes we are too shy and we are unable to voice out our opinions. That’s what this documentary is about” begins Girls Ask, which aired young girls concerns to candidates in light of Tonga’s historic elections.
Shown in a specialist viewing to candidates with a talanoa session between the girls and candidates afterwards, the documentary aims to get decision makers to understand the concerns of young girls who vote for them.
Aired on TV2, the documentary covered issues such as the need to amend Tonga’s rape laws, nepotism in the employment of Government Teachers and the impact that a lack of access to education can have on society. The documentary is available online and upon request, and will be used to continue to campaign for the rights of young girls.
The centre won second prize in the Tonga Family Health World Aids Day Short Film competition for their film that urged married women not to become complacent about HIV/AIDS. Featuring a picture of a wedding ring, the advertisement reminded women that the best protection against HIV/AIDS is a condom.
Organisations and individuals across Tonga celebrated Worlds Aids Day by making short films to promote education about HIV/AIDS. WCCC Director ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-likiliki said “we were very excited to see the link between gender and HIV/AIDS up on display in the film festival – the fact is that more married women are reporting with cases of STIs, which places them more at risk of HIV/AIDS. Around the world, women are increasingly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. It’s time to get educated about how to keep safe.”
WCCC also produced Pink Hibiscus, a 5 minute piece about a survivor of an incest case, which demonstrates the importance of providing ongoing services to survivors of abuse and highlighted the fact that in parts of the Pacific two in every three girls are violated at home. Sexual abuse cases, including incest, have increased for WCCC this year with 16 cases relating to sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment.
For a copy of any of these films, or to receive more details, do not hesitate to contact us email@example.com, or (676) 22 240.
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.