November 25 was more than the beginning of a new political era for Tonga – it was also the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women in which a series of important dates are celebrated to promote human rights for all.
In an address to a father and son prayer breakfast to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women, Police Commander Chris Kelley pointed out that Ministry of Police crime statistics indicate that the streets are safer than some people’s homes.
The International event is White Ribbon Day, which acknowledges the role of men in preventing violence against women. All men who wear the
white ribbon are invited to make a pledge to actively discourage Violence Against Women. “It is time to end the silence on this issue” said the Women and Children Crisis Centre Male advocate ‘Usaia Hemaloto, “it is clear that there is a need for a change – it is time to promote healthy and equal relationships, and a home environment that is safer than the streets!”
Many of the services involved in eliminating Violence Against Women were in attendance at the prayer breakfast, including the Ministry of
Health, the Department of Women’s Affairs, the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children, the Women and Children Crisis Centre, the
Talitha Project and Tonga Street Boyz.
Women and Children Crisis Centre director, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki commented on the significance of the commencement of the 16 Days of
Activism co-inciding with Tonga’s historic democratic elections. “As we welcome the new government later today we all sincerely hope that
one of their first steps is to prioritise the elimination of Violence Against Women. As a nation we need to acknowledge that Violence
Against Women is a human rights violation – even when it happens in the home” said Guttenbeil-Likiliki.
As Tonga enters a new political era, Kelley encouraged the whole community to be responsible for these crimes committed against women,
“the four women and one child who died in 2009 as a result of family violence can’t keep it as a ‘family matter’. The memory of these
victims should haunt and remind us all that ‘we let it happen, here in Tonga, in our community”.
The Commander called on the Tongan values of respect and honour and asked, “if it is not ok to assault your mother or your sister in this
society, what makes it ok to assault your wife or other women?… we all know that it is never ok!”