WCCC Trustee Leads The Way In Changing Laws For Women

07/10/2011 10:15

Excerpts for this article taken from the media release National consultation on Changing Laws, Protecting Women accessed from https://www.tongaeducation.gov.to

In August, Lepolo Mahe Taunisila, one the Trustees of the WCCC, played a critical role in the facilitating of the National consultation on Changing Laws, Protecting Women hosted by the Women’s Affairs Unit of the Ministry of Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture (WAU/MEWAC) of which she is based.

As the Country Focal Officer (CFO) of the Changing Laws, Protecting Women project, the meeting looked at the options of having a separate Domestic Violence legislation in relation to the civil, criminal and the family law aspects of the draft documents.

According to Mahe Taunisila, the consultation involved presenting draft legislations and best practices from various countries so that the participants from Government ministries and the non-government sector could discuss the elements of suitable domestic violence legislation for Tonga.  
Lepolo said that this type of consultation was very much needed because at the moment Tonga does not have any legislation that specifically addresses domestic violence.
Domestic violence complaints, Lepolo said, is currently addressed under the criminal assault laws. There is a tendency sometimes for law enforcement authorities to refrain from pursuing a case under the criminal assault legislation, because it is seen simply as a family matter to be resolved only within the family.
But the alarming rise in the statistics on complaints about domestic violence, and the increase in the number of women and children that seek refuge in the two operating women centers in Tonga, according to Lepolo, point to the woefully inadequate ability of the criminal assault law to address this very serious issue.

In addition to discussing the draft documents, the participants also considered the broader issue of, if Tonga wanted domestic violence legislation, how will it work? Such legislation and regulation should define the role of the police, the obligations of the various help centers, the role of education, what sort of statistics do we need to collect, to ensure that we meet accountability, reporting and monitoring requirements.
There were also technical issues to consider, like the definition of crimes covered under domestic violence legislation, what penalties to impose, and whether the penalties are too harsh or too lenient.

What is clear though at this stage, said Lepolo, is that the criminal assault laws only addresses physical violence. It does not address other forms of violence like psychological abuse, emotional and mental stress, deprivation of access to family finances and other monetary resources, sexual harassment, and stalking that deprives a woman of her freedom, but there are currently no laws or protection orders to safeguard women from such situations.
The consultation ended Thursday, August 18th, with a presentation of a Cabinet paper to the Director of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture.

For more information on this project please contact Lepolo directly on her email: lepolotaunisila@yahoo.com