A women’s advocate in Tonga says a delay in the signing of a controversial rights convention may be positive for supporters of the move.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has told parliament that the government will step back from ratifying the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW.

Earlier church leaders led opposition against CEDAW saying it would open the way for same-sex marriage and abortion.

The director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki says the parliamentary comments do not signal an end to the CEDAW process.

She says, if anything, the effort to achieve ratification will be strengthened.

“What we have learnt over the last six months is that there needs to be some talanoa, (discussions), in terms of getting people to understand what the convention is about and to get them to talk and ask questions. To date, that hasn’t really taken place over the last six months, it’s really just been a war in the media.”

The government has suggested that a referendum could be held over the matter sometime next year.

 

Many in Tonga, including women, oppose CEDAW saying it includes counter-culture clauses such as same sex marriage and abortion.