Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the Pacific
|Jean Lele (YWCA kindergarten teacher), Jocelyn Lai (YWCA Board member), Alice Kale (YWCA General Secretary) and Pauline Soaki (previous YWCA Board member and AusAID gender and health program manager). (c) Jeremy Miler, AusAID|
Amnesty International believes that one of the biggest threats to Pacific development is that more than half the Pacific's population – its women – are discriminated against. Only when the rights of Pacific women are fully realised will the Pacific reach its aspirations for economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.
Sexual and gender-based violence is an entrenched, systematic and widespread human rights problem in the Pacific, impacting on average two in three women in the region.
It has a devastating impact not only on individual women, but on communities and on the Pacific region as a whole. Sexual and gender-based violence is the ultimate physical manifestation of discrimination and this discrimination against women is pervasive in almost all spheres of Pacific societies, especially in the way women are treated in law. This issue is compounded by the fact that few countries possess specific legislation outlawing gender-based violence.
In 2009, in a milestone for Pacific women, Pacific Island leaders at the Pacific Island Forum leaders meeting (PIF) committed to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence and in 2010 at Port Vila, Vanuatu leaders supported the initiative for the establishment of a Reference Group to combat this violence.
The Reference Group and key non-governmental organisations in the region have been instrumental in their efforts to work with Pacific Island governments to prepare policies and draft legislation to address the issue.
Amnesty International acknowledges that recently developed policies and draft bills in some Pacific countries provide an important platform for a comprehensive protection framework for Pacific women and their families, but until these promises, policies and draft bills are implemented into law, they provide no tangible protection to Pacific women.
Pacific Leaders must commit to recognising, protecting and fulfilling women’s rights in the Pacific by:
- Completing comprehensive draft legislation to specifically address sexual and gender-based violence;
- Enacting that legislation to ensure policy initiatives are followed and protection is available; and
- Repealing laws that discriminate against women.
It is imperative that leaders step up to create an effective legal framework that ensures real protection of women, because as the clock ticks, Pacific women remain at risk.
Click here for our Regional Overview and Call to Action.
The Pacific Islands Forum
The Pacific Islands Forum (formerly known as the South Pacific Forum) was founded in August 1971 and today consists of 16 independent and self-governing states from the Pacific region.
Members are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Fiji is currently suspended. Click here for Amnesty International's position on Fiji.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat coordinates the annual gathering of leaders and manages the implementation of the Pacific Plan for strengthening regional cooperation and integration. For a brief overview of the Pacific Plan click here.