Archive for August, 2011

Demands for review of Vanuatu protection laws

Monday, August 29th, 2011

In Vanuatu, a women’s rights group has called for a review of the Family Protection Act following concerns the government isn’t treating the law seriously enough. The Family Protection Act was introduced in 2008 to combat violence against women and children. Recently, Vanuatu’s government commissioned a theatre group to produce a film to promote the law. But Jenny Ligo from the NGO, Women Against Crime is concerned the government isn’t using foreign aid to effectively implement the act.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts Speaker: Jenny Ligo, chairwomen of Women Against Crime

LIGO: We see it as maybe some of the sections that people don’t understand it and we do, we have reasons, we don’t know why, we are asking them questions why they’re not enforcing it. For example like now at the moment if we look at across the board, there is a growing violence on women and children but we don’t see this law, this law is not enforced on anybody.

COUTTS: What you’re saying is that the acts of violence against women are growing and increasing, but the prosecutions aren’t keeping pace with the increased rate of violence?

LIGO: Yes that’s what we’re saying. There is a law but when it comes to when a person is affected and she or he thinks that the law will protect him or her, but at the end of the day there is nothing. So this is why we don’t know, we don’t know, we think that people should be using the law themselves, they don’t really understand it and there is nothing, people don’t understand it, and like some of us do, we have some questions on that.

COUTTS: Ok can we look at the law itself; you said a number of times already that people don’t understand it, so is the law itself, the Family Protection Act, too complicated, does it need to be amended and explained better so that people can use it and are aware of the provisions in it?

LIGO: Yeah because when I look at it, it is like in the 1998 or 97 when I first started to keep a log until now, to me that bill it’s a bit complicated.

COUTTS: Alright can I just ask you, complicated, is it the language what’s complicated and therefore people don’t understand it, or is it too cumbersome, the provisions, and so the police are reluctant to use it because it’s too difficult to use it?

LIGO: Yes I think it’s both, I cannot speak for the police but how I look at it, it is a law that women have been spearheading this, and then people look at it as if it’s a women’s law, it is not a women’s law, it is a Family Protection Act, which should stand for family, but at the end of the day people look at it and say it’s a women’s issue, and this is why I think because too many issues that women are raising they try to fight for women’s rights all the time, and this is one of the areas that I’m seeing that it’s becoming one area that people don’t respect the act itself. They say oh it’s another women’s issue, who cares? So it’s something like that. I thought to argue to people, to some people if it’s those who passed the bill in parliament. Some of them said yes, we have passed it, but it doesn’t matter, but they passed they bill, so it’s like a political gain at the end of the day, they passed the bill, but they don’t really see it as it is.

COUTTS: Well what do you think can be done apart from amending the law to make it more understandable for the users, do you think that there should be workshops to raise awareness and explain how the bill works and how it can be used?

LIGO: Family Protection Act is one of the laws in Vanuatu that has done more awareness than any law, and one of the things I believe is becoming a hindrance in this is that anything to do with family I think women should not take the lead in it, it has to be a different approach to it, with different people, because women in Vanuatu and anywhere we have been talking about women’s rights a lot, and this is where some issues that people don’t really like women raising issues. And some of the issues that we raise with people don’t respect, for example when we are talking about the act itself, in there there is restraining order, and this is where chiefs and churches and some of the leaders they don’t feel that restraining order is part of the culture in Vanuatu. So this is where we see it as a protection for somebody, but to us in Vanuatu that is not, they think that that’s separation of the couple. So it is really something that, that’s why I personally feel it is time to review the law, because it’s no use to spend money by putting time into Family Act and nobody will respect it because at the moment there is still growing violence against women and children. And when you look at it as a whole, it looks as if there’s no law protecting women and children, which actually there is a law, but there is no enforcements.

COUTTS: Jenny you mentioned that the amount of money that’s been spent, you want a review because you’re worried that the government had not been using foreign aid funding to effectively implement the Family Protection Act?

LIGO: Yes I believe the two main donors who are putting money in silence in this country is NZ Aid and AusAid, and I believe they are doing great in giving the aid funding to Vanuatu, but what we want to see that this aid money in putting in silence is effective is like the whole of Vanuatu is getting the services, but we are getting it. And because the government doesn’t have a program for violence against women, they only rely on the NGOs, and I believe that NGOs yes, they are doing great work, but because NGOs they have their own agenda too, like they have to grow their own organisations, so it’s a lot that contributes to all of this, and when there is funding for example now I’m hearing they are giving funding to one small part to do a video, which is great, but is it going to benefit the whole of Vanuatu in this area, does it bring answer for the Family Protection Act that we want to see or what is it? And that is why I’m calling for the review of the act.

COUTTS: Is it more accurate to say perhaps that the police and the politicians are choosing to ignore the provisions of the Family Protection Act because of the cultural reasons rather than they don’t understand it?

LIGO: Yes I can say that, because most of them, even the politicians, the parliamentarians, they have passed a bill but they themselves they don’t understand the content of it. Even though they know that there is an act for families that can protect families, but at the end of the day many of them will not respect that, many of them will not look at this act seriously, that it is a law for families in Vanuatu and it is a law that we have to uphold. That is why nobody cares, and at the end of the day it looks like only women are trying hard to implement, to try to enforce it, to work with the authorities. But people themselves who have passed the law, they are not. So that’s why because authorities only some of them, but I would say not all of them respect the law.


Source: Pacific Beat :

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Kiribati Women Show Their Skills in Parliament

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The Maneaba ni Maungatabu (Parliament) was a scene of intense debate and dialogue today as thirty Kiribati women – thirteen women from Tarawa and seventeen women from the outer islands – came together on the last day of the first ever Mock Parliament for Women held in the Kiribati, or in the Pacific.

At the closing debrief for the Mock Parliamentarians, the Speaker of the National Parliament of Kiribati, Hon Taomati Iuta, was very encouraging. “Today’s performance in the House was very impressive. Some of you already sound like real parliamentarians. At the end of this Mock Parliament, I hope that constituents will now have a more positive attitude to women, if and when you run for Parliament.”

During today’s session, the women on the Government benches faced Question Time in the morning, with questions ranging from issues such as the Government’s policy on public transport for school children, to reserving seats for women in local and national elected bodies, to increasing the number of polling stations for voters in outer islands. Ms Teewata Rokete, an Opposition MP in the Mock Parliament, questioned the Government on its policies for people with disabilities.

“The real Kiribati Government has not yet finalized the National Disability Policy so I asked the Mock Government when Cabinet would endorse the policy. A draft was done in 2007, but it is 2011 and the draft has not yet been finalized. I questioned why the Government has been so slow. It is very important for people living with disabilities that the Government take action to make sure that they have access to necessary services and support. I was very pleased that the Minister in our Mock Parliament assured me the Policy would be endorsed by Cabinet before the next parliamentary session. I hope the real Government will do the same.”

Following question time, Members discussed a motion put forward by Opposition Member Ms Tereti Tabutoa, urging the Government to focus on enacting and enforcing a specific domestic violence law. “There are many Government policies on women’s issues but too many of them are not implemented. This is why we need a law to deal with domestic violence. I moved this motion to urge the Government to pass legislation to protect our women and children. It is a real concern to me that even when women go to the police, they are encouraged to reconcile. We need a law to make sure that all our community knows that violence against women and children is not acceptable.” Ms Tabutua’s motion was unanimously passed by the House after an active debate from Members on both sides of the benches.

The last order of business was a debate on the passage of the proposed Youth Reproductive Health Rights Bill 2011, which proposed requiring free condoms to be provided in government primary and secondary schools and for sex education classes to be compulsory for students over 8 years of age. Reflecting on the debate and the Mock parliament more broadly, Hon Ritite Tekiau, a Member of the Government side during the Mock Parliament and the real-life Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs, reflected, “This has been a very different experience for me, but it has been very positive. I am very pleased to see that Kiribati women are ready for this type of political activity. This Mock Parliament demonstrated in a real way the commitment and interest of women both in Tarawa and in the outer islands to enter politics.

The questions that the women raised in Question Time were excellent and really drew to our attention some issues that our Government could work more actively on. Our Ministry is very grateful to see such interest because we very much want to support women’s efforts to participate in our Government.” MP Teburoro Tito, a current Member of the Opposition and a former President of Kiribati, was with the participants throughout the training to provide coaching on parliamentary practice.

At the end of the meeting, he had high praise for the participants in his final debrief. “I am very excited by what I saw. You have made history here. I have been very impressed at how you have worked in Parliament. Because of our culture, nobody has really seen the potential that our women have to engage in politics, but over these last few days, I have seen that you can perform better even than some of our current MPs. I wish you luck, especially those of you who run in our next elections.” Kiribati will be holding national elections in the next few months.

This initiative was designed to provide an opportunity for potential women candidates to develop and apply their public advocacy skills. It was also intended to encourage the broader community to reflect on the importance of electing more women into the Kiribati National Parliament.

The training and Mock Parliament for Women was spearheaded by the Kiribati Parliament and the Kiribati Department of Women. It was supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme, with some funding support provided by the Commonwealth Local Governance Forum (CLGF).

Source: Scoop NZ

10th August, 2011

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