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Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific

by International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
FWRM, Balancing the Scales, p. 76
FWRM, Balancing the Scales, p. 76

Over the past 5 years, ICAAD has advanced data-driven education about gender bias and how it is perpetuated within existing societal structures, such as the informal and formal justice sector.

More recently, our methodology has been increasingly adopted to advance the work of local and regional institutions, such as the Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative (PJSI), an initiative of the Federal Courts of Australia.

PJSI suggested using ICAAD’s data as a baseline for further assessments in its Gender and Family Violence Toolkit. In its Human Rights Toolkit, PJSI states that ICAAD’s “study shows how values that undermine women’s right to equal protection of the law can also be ingrained in judicial thinking, suggesting that this might be an area where specific judicial training and guidance could be helpful.”

In its report, Balancing the Scales: Improving Fijian Women's Access to Justice, FWRM adapted ICAAD’s methodology to review rape and sexual assault judgments in the High Court and Magistrate Courts for 2016 and 2017. The aim of FWRM’s report is to “further inform law reform in this area and improve women and children’s access to the formal justice system.”

This year, in February, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights’ comments largely focused on topics ICAAD raised in a CEDAW report drafted on behalf of a coalition of local NGOs. The High Commissioner addressed: climate change and its particular impact on women, that “the high rate of violence against women remains one of the biggest human rights problems,” and the systemic nature of gender based violence, which “is a result of the power imbalance within homes, society at large as well as in State institutions.”

In the following months, we’ll be launching the first ever Sentencing Handbook on gender based violence for the Pacific Region. This Handbook will inform the analysis that underpins the TrackGBV database, where lawyers will analyze 5,000 cases and provide data from across 12 countries in the Pacific to promote judicial transparency and accountability.

None of this happens without your continued support!


Cover of the Niue Report
Cover of the Niue Report

ICAAD conducted a community-needs assessment on gender-based violence in Niue and recently released a report on its findings. Erin Thomas, ICAAD Advisor and researcher at the University of Auckland, conducted surveys with a variety of leaders in the Niuean government and civil society, while also conducting an in-depth literature review. The scope of the project focused on Niueans living in Niue, bolstered by accounts of Niueans living in New Zealand. The research was conducted under the supervision of Taoga Niue following the Talanoa semi-structured interview methodology. Read the report here.

Executive Summary

This report highlights some of the unique features of Niue and avenues to reduce GBV through policy and social change. The main finding is the need for an in-depth survey to assess the prevalence and risk factors of GBV in Niue as well as cultural attitudes population-wide. Beyond this baseline information, there is a need for strengthened efforts in tracking cases of GBV from police reports to the judicial system. Furthermore, criminal offences as defined in current legislation fail to meet international standards for ending violence against women. New legislation is needed to both modernize and set new standards to promote women’s rights and gender equality in Niue. Interviews also demonstrated how gender bias functions to hinder survivors’ access to justice and how limited formal mental health resources and stigma around help-seeking behaviors hinder survivor’s safety and access to long-term mental healthcare. The taboo nature of GBV makes it difficult to discuss in a particularly close-knit community like Niue, and here, an outsiders’ perspective to highlight issues that get very little coverage nationally can be valuable. However, in the end, social and political change must be found in aga fakamotu Niue and led by and for the people of Niue.

Thank you for supporting ICAAD's efforts to combat gender-based violence against women and girls in the Pacific!

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women recently released an 8 page list of questions for Fiji, following the submission of a Parallel Report drafted by ICAAD on behalf of a coalition of local NGOs. While the Parallel Report mentioned efforts made in Fiji to improve gender parity, it highlighted major gaps in existing legislation and practices that have significantly hindered progress for women's rights.

Commenting on the report, Nalini Singh, Executive Director for Fiji Women's Rights Movement said, "the reforms are far outweighed by the existing and entrenched discrimination against women. The report cites the high prevalence of gender-based violence in society as evidence of the State's lack of compliance to CEDAW." 

 The Parallel Report responded directly to the Fiji government's report to the Committee, and focused on CEDAW Articles:

  • 1 and 2, Discrimination and its Elimination
  • 3 Measures to Guarantee Comprehensive Advances by Women
  • 5 Sex Roles & Stereotypes
  • 6 Exploitation of Women
  • 11 Employment
  • 12 Health
  • 14 Rural Women, and
  • 16 Marriage and Family Life

In relation to gender-based violence, the CEDAW Committee highlighted problems with access to justice for women and girls, highlighting customary reconciliation and gender-bias in the judiciary as areas of particular concern, and asked for information from the State as to what measures it is taking to address the concerns. It also requested information on training measures for health, law enforcement, and the judiciary, and "any measures taken to increase the number of female front-line officers."

The Parallel Report was drafted by ICAAD in consultation with local organizations, and submitted to the CEDAW with the support of Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM), Citizen's Constitutional Forum (CCF), Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) Fiji, femLINKpacific, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, National Union for Commercial Factory Workers, Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), Haus of Khameleon, Pacific Sexual and Reproductive Health Centre, Pacific Disability Forum, and Soqosoqo Vakamarama iTaukei.

Fiji Ministry of Social Welfare, Women & Poverty
Fiji Ministry of Social Welfare, Women & Poverty

Every time a sentence is reduced because of gender bias, the survivor is robbed of their justice, and it sends a signal to aggressors that crimes against women and girls are not serious. ICAAD believes it is imperative to increase transparency and accountability in the legal system to reduce the occurrence of violence.

Written in partnership with global law firms Clifford Chance (U.K.) and DLA Piper (Australia), and local judicial experts, ICAAD will soon be releasing the first ever Sentencing Handbook on gender based violence for the Pacific Region. The Sentencing Handbook will function as an instructional guide for: judges when evaluating GBV cases, prosecutors, civil society organizations, and lawyers and law students who will conduct case law analysis for TrackGBV, a public access legal database ICAAD is currently creating.

The Handbook will provide the methodology for analysis of GBV cases; detail the scope of GBV in the Pacific, its causes, and forms of violence; define gender bias, gender myths/ stereotypes, customary practices, and its relationship to sentencing; and promote the understanding of international law principles, status of custom in domestic legislation, international and national best practices, and GBV related legislation.

The goal of the Handbook is to provide education to practitioners to avoid the influence of gender-bias in decision making, and to be able to voice concerns during Court proceedings when discriminatory factors are raised.

Your support makes it possible to promote systemic change and increase access to justice for women and girls in the Pacific. We greatly appreciate your assistance. 

Let's promote justice for girls in PICs

Following a trip to the Pacific in March to advance the Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific program, the ICAAD team has been consulting with Chief Justices across the region, discussing the need for better access to lower court decisions and potential opportunities to give trainings. The Chief Justice of the Marshall Islands has volunteered to send DV and sexual offence cases to ICAAD going back to 2000 for inclusion in PacLII and the TrackGBV (gender-based violence) sentencing database we are building. 

ICAAD's sentencing report was presented by the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative (PJSI) - run by Federal Courts of Australia - at a judicial consultation in April in Samoa, with 14 Chief Justices attending from across the region. The Chief Justice of Tonga and a Judge in Samoa also expressed interest in our analysis, and are interested in ensuring that Tongan and Samoan cases also are analyzed for gender-bias by ICAAD.

With your support, we are:

  • Promoting legal reform by providing actionable GBV data to local advocates;
  • Influencing judicial attitudes and behaviors through rule of law trainings;
  • Partnering with Chief Justices to increase transparency in court systems;
  • Training women’s rights organizations regionally;
  • Teaching a human rights course on gender bias in the judiciary to law students;
  • Building a scholarship fund for local women to attend law school.

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Organization Information

International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)

Location: Chappaqua, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ICAADglobal
Project Leader:
Hansdeep Singh
Co-Founder, Director of Legal Programmes
Chappaqua, NY United States
$48,271 raised of $60,000 goal
197 donations
$11,729 to go
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