WCCC launches the ‘It’s not Ok’ campaign which says it is a crime to commit any violence against women and children. This includes domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment and rape.
WCCC counselor, Susana ‘Uhatafe said “it is time for us to start talking about the fact that it is not ok to remain silent about the things that are causing us stress in our private lives. Domestic violence and child abuse are not matters to be sorted out privately. They are part of a problem that exists in our society – that each of us allows violence against women and children to take place.”
Domestic violence is any abusive behavior used by one partner in a relationship to gain and maintain control over another’s life. It can occur in any type of domestic relationship, including spousal relationships, intimate personal relationships, family relationships and informal care relationships. Under Tongan law, it is a crime to commit any kind of assault – it is not ok to commit domestic violence. ‘Uhatafe said “often in Tongan culture we hear that men feel they have the right to discipline their wives – it is not true. Men should never hit their wives, or feel that they have the right to ownership over their wives in any way.”
Child abuse and neglect occurs when a child is mistreated, resulting in injury or risk of harm. Abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. Cases of neglect, incest and sexual child abuse are increasing in Tonga, with one 1 death in 2009 as a result of child abuse. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child, and under Tonga’s Criminal Code, it is a crime to hurt a child. “We often hear this view that I was hit as a child, and I am fine, so I should be able to hit my children. At the centre we see cases where that has gone too far. It is not ok to promote violence towards children, or to create an environment in which any kind of tolerance towards violence is encouraged. But what we don’t see much of are other disciplinary actions – such as using time out or denying privileges to encourage positive behavior in children. There is room for development in these areas, of non-violent ways to encourage children ” said ‘Uhatafe.
Rape is non-consensual, forcible sexual relations or other sexual activity. Rape comes under the criminal code in Tonga and it is not ok to have forced sex with any person. Tonga reported its first case of sex trafficking in 2010. Sexual harassment is any behaviour/ gesture/ language that is persistent, unwelcome and is of a sexual nature. This includes requests for a sexual relationship, contact or favors together with an indirect or explicit promise of preferential treatment, or the threat of detrimental treatment if the request is declined. “People often feel that it is taboo to talk openly about any of these issues that are about sex in our society” said ‘Uhatafe, “but it is essential that people take a stand. It is not ok to be a victim of rape or sexual harassment; It is not ok to be living in a society that continues to commit acts of violence against women. I encourage all to stand with me and state that it is not ok”.