Ending family violence in Pacific: law is not enough

Secretariat of the Pacific Community
17 June 2016
Suva, Fiji – A respected former Fijian judge has told a human rights forum that legislation is only part of the solution to ending domestic violence in the Pacific region.
Former Judge Mere Pulea delivered the opening address at the Pacific Community Gender and the Law Consultation 2016 in Nadi this week, which was organised by the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) in partnership with UN Women and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement.
“Putting in place laws against domestic violence in 11 Pacific Island countries is a major achievement which will have profound impacts on the lives of victims of violence. However, legislation in itself is only part of the solution,” Judge Pulea said.


“There is much more to be done to effectively implement these laws, a challenge that is rivalled only by our underestimation of the difficulty of bringing about attitudinal and systemic changes,” Judge Pulea stated.
The five-day consultation brought together lawyers, police, civil society representatives and policy officers from those Pacific countries with family protection and domestic violence laws in place (Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Island, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) to share experiences, challenges and lessons learned in implementing their respective family protection laws.
The Meeting Statement calls on Pacific governments to recognise the multiple layers of discrimination that women face, and the challenges and barriers to justice experienced by women and girls, including women and girls with disabilities.
The statement, endorsed by all participants, acknowledges that “domestic violence is the most pervasive violation of human rights that it affects all women and girls across the Pacific”.
It also stresses the need to strengthen collaboration between governments, NGOs, women’s groups, shelters, churches and other civil society structures to ensure Pacific communities benefit from domestic violence laws.
“On average, two out of three Pacific women are believed to experience violence at the hands of their intimate partners or family members during their lifetime, which is why this continues to be a serious issue in the region,” RRRT Director, Mark Atterton, said.
“SPC is working with multiple partners to support efforts to curtail domestic violence as we believe that a rights-based approach is fundamental to responses to domestic violence,” he said.
With the theme Implementing Domestic Violence Legislation, the consultation was supported by the Australian Government and the European Union.
The misuse of family protection and domestic violence laws for purposes not intended by the law and the most appropriate circumstances for using mediation were also among the topics covered.
RRRT is the Pacific Community’s human rights programme, working to build a rights-based culture, and assisting nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.