Tonga passes Family Protection Bill

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A Bill to address domestic violence has passed its third and final reading in the Tongan Parliament. The Family Protection Bill 2013 was developed by Tonga's Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture Women's Affairs Division and the Secretariat of the Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme.

Advocate groups welcomed passing of the bill, which was introduced two years ago. The Director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre, Ofa Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, says the Bill includes three core measures:

  • increased power for police to issue protection orders on the spot, for a maximum of seven days
  • a legal requirement to inform victims of their rights and what is involved in legal proceedings
  • the formation of a committee of key community stakeholders to discuss how to best monitor and evaluate the Bill.

Debate on the Bill included discussing the difference between discipline and violence towards children. The Bill says that discipline that is not reasonable is violence. The Bill now awaits the King's assent and is expected to be enacted in 2014.

Recent research on domestic violence in Tonga is available electronically via the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse library. It includes the 2009 National study on domestic violence against women in Tonga, which examined the prevalence, causes and consequences of violence against women to inform policy directions. A deeper silence: The unheard experiences of women with disabilities and their sexual and reproductive health experiences was conducted in Tonga, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2010 and 2011.

For Tongan communities in New Zealand, the Tongan Conceptual Framework for the prevention of and intervention in family violence in New Zealand was published in 2012. It was developed to assist with the development of a training plan for practitioners and service providers in working with Tongan victims, perpetrators, and families affected by family violence.

Prior to the Pacific Islands Forum held in early September 2013, former Green MP Sue Kedgley called for leaders to discuss gender equality, including addressing domestic violence.

Media:

'Tonga Family Protection Bill passes final reading', Radio New Zealand, 10.09.2013

'Tonga domestic abuse victims welcome new protection bill', Radio Australia, 10.09.2013

'Tonga Family Protection Bill favoured by full majority', Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 04.09.2013