Physical, Sexual Abuse Of Women, Children Unacceptable: Samoa PM

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Aug. 19, 2015) – The continuous physical and sexual abuse of women and children in Samoa is not acceptable.

The point was made by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, on Tuesday evening during the launch of Samoa’s first State of Human Rights Report.

The report was prepared by the Office of the Ombudsman in its role as Samoa’s National Human Rights Institution (N.H.R.I).

"In a society which holds such strong community and family values, it is not acceptable that we continue to see women and children physically and sexually abused," Tuilaepa said.

This abuse, he added, is often at the hands of their loved ones. The Prime Minister went on to say that this abuse includes children who labour on the streets.

"(The) children, Samoa’s future and the guardians of family legacies, continue to labour in the streets; and that persons with disabilities are still denied equal participation in many areas of society," the Prime Minister said.

The launch of the report follows months of hard work by the Ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma and his team at N.H.R.I. The report explores the Fa’asamoa principles of equality, respect and protection, which complement basic human rights in international law, and the relationship between these principles and the bigger picture issues which form the basis of the report, namely, the equality, respect and protection of vulnerable populations; all aspects of health; environmental health; and religious and economic freedoms.

U.N Resident Coordinator Lizabeth Cullity, Australian Deputy High Commissioner Rosemary McKay, Catherine Phuong and New Zealand High Commissioner Jackie Frizelle.

U.N Resident Coordinator Lizabeth Cullity, Australian Deputy High Commissioner Rosemary McKay, Catherine Phuong and New Zealand High Commissioner Jackie Frizelle.

The main focus of the report is the need for better safeguards for equality and respect for women, children, people with disabilities (P.W.Ds) and prisoners. It was clear from the research and outreach the N.H.R.I conducted that these groups are the most vulnerable in Samoan society and the most in need of stronger human rights protections.

The report concludes with a discussion of the emerging issues of mental health and freedom of speech.

Also contained within the report are a number of recommendations made to relevant Government ministries and agencies in order to better strengthen human rights protections for the people of Samoa. "As Samoa continues to develop and prosper, more needs to be done to ensure quality health care is available and accessible for all Samoans," Tuilaepa said.

"This includes taking action to address the more sensitive and taboo topics of preventing S.T.Is and family health and planning.

"Improving health outcomes must also be addressed through improved water and sanitation for both urban and rural areas. And to ensure continued development and prosperity, Samoa must be protected from the impacts of climate change as a fundamental human rights issue.

"In these ways the Samoan community can be strengthened, the rights of all protected, and sustainable livelihoods ensured. For all Samoans, regardless of gender, religion, age or ability. The Prime Minister commended Maiava and his team at the National Human Rights Institution.

Their commitment, he said, reflects the importance placed by the government on human rights.

"Respecting and protecting the human rights of all Samoans is an integral foundation to ensure sustainable and inclusive development for all. And it is intrinsically linked to the traditional principles of Fa’a Samoa that guide our lives here," he said.

"Under the leadership of the Human Rights Protection Party, Samoa is taking steps to improve human rights for all Samoans, not only through the establishment and ongoing work of the N.H.R.I, but also through the efforts of government ministries. For example, Samoa signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September 2014, and in the 2016 election we will be enforcing a 10% quota for female parliamentarians.

"Samoa also has strong civil society engagement on human rights, such as: the work of Women in Business Development Inc in delivering economic empowerment programs for women and their families and communities; and the work of the Samoa Victims Support Group in supporting victims of domestic violence. The efforts of civil society must be commended and supported.

"Nonetheless, more needs to be done."

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