PRESS RELEASE - 15th March 2011 - CONCLUSION OF THE SECOND MEETING OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM REFERENCE GROUP TO ADDRESS SEXUAL AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (SGBV)Nuku'alofa, Tonga
9-11 March 2011
The Pacific Islands Forum Reference Group to Address Sexual and Gender Based Violence concluded its first Forum country visit, in Tonga, on 11 March 2011. The Reference Group visited Nuku'alofa from 9-11 March during which time it met with a wide range of stakeholders from both government and non government sectors, including church Leaders.
"The country visit has been helpful as it gave the Reference Group the opportunity to hear directly from key players and stakeholders about eliminating violence against women, of the gaps in policies, legislation and finances, including services that need to be addressed" said Ms. Ethel Sigimanu spokesperson of the PIF Reference Group.
The Reference Group noted with appreciation the key steps taken by the Government of Tonga to address domestic violence and violence against women issues, including the establishment of a unit within the Police to focus on domestic violence cases, the adoption of a No-Drop policy by the Police and the repealing of the marital rape provisions in the Criminal Offences Act.
Reference Group members also noted and praised the work of civil society organisations to address sexual and gender based violence in Tonga, acknowledging that civil society organisations' work in that regard provided direct relief at grassroots levels, as well as helped to raise awareness of the seriousness of the issue at institutional levels. The Reference Group also noted the important role of churches in that regard.
Notwithstanding the achievements of both government and civil society in addressing SGBV in Tonga, Reference Group members noted areas where efforts could be strengthened, in policy, legislative and operational matters, and committed to seeking assistance toward that end.
The Reference Group concluded its visit by expressing its great appreciation to the Government of Tonga for warmly receiving the Group and facilitating its meetings with relevant stakeholders.
The Reference Group was represented by: Ms Ethel Sigimanu, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry for Women, Youth and Children's Affairs, Solomon Islands; Mr Teurakai Ukenio, Acting Director Community Development & Social Services Division, Ministry of Internal & Social Affairs, Kiribati; Commissioner Chris Kelley, Royal Tonga Police, Tonga; Ms Tupou Vere, Programme Manager EVAW, UN Women Pacific; Mrs Fekitamoeloa K. 'Utoikamanu, Deputy Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community; and Ms Shamima Ali, Director, Fiji Women's Crisis Centre.