Tuesday, 17 March 2009 5:17 AM

Human Rights Advisor: Pacific Laws Do Not Protect Women

Human Rights advisor, Imrana Jalal, says that Pacific laws on violence against women (VAW) are outdated and treat women with indifference and that Pacific Island governments need to make a concerted effort to review this legislation so that laws can better protect women.

According to Fijilive, 'Jalal made the comments whilst addressing members of the Pacific Islands Forum who attended the 53rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) held recently in New York as the chair of the high-level UN Expert Group on Best Practices in Violence against Women Legislation.

Pacific representatives from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, as well as Australia and New Zealand attended the meeting where Jalal told those Pacific government representatives that only a handful of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) had made some progress.

"Only Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and more recently, Vanuatu, had made any progress in changing outdated and discriminatory laws and interpretations.

"PNG and RMI had made changes to sexual assault laws but not domestic violence and family law, whilst Vanuatu had addressed the issue of domestic violence."

Jalal said Fiji had addressed some elements of domestic violence in its family law but had not touched on sexual violence or domestic violence in its criminal or civil codes.

And despite being the first country in the region to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, Samoa had not passed any legislation addressing any area of women's rights, since ratification.

The panel advises the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on best practices from around the globe in terms of laws which relate to VAW.

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