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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (September. 12, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---The American Samoa House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would establish -- for the first time – a law to deal with domestic and family violence.

The proposed legislation now is before the territorial Senate for consideration.

With the increase in domestic and family violence in the territory, government and non-government groups have urged lawmakers to pass into law mandates that deal with this issue. Currently, American Samoa does not have any laws that specifically assist victims of domestic violence, notably women and children.

House Speaker Aina S. Nua, who introduced the legislation, said the proposed law would recognized that domestic violence is a serious crime against society and would assure victims maximum support.

"It is the intent of the Legislature that the official response to cases of domestic violence shall stress the enforcement of the laws to protect the victim and shall communicate the attitude that violent behavior is not excused or tolerated," says the legislation.

"Furthermore, it is the intent of the Fono that criminal laws be enforced without regard to whether the persons involved are or were married, cohabiting or involved in a relationship," it concluded.

Speaker Aina told Pacific Islands Report that American Samoa needs to pass the legislation in order to comply with several federal mandates, which will ensure continued U.S. funding of programs already implemented to help victims of domestic violence.

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