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Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific

by International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)
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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

TrackGBV Update: Analysis of 5,000 GBV cases in 12 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) has begun.

  • Linklaters - is the lead law firm coordinating the analysis
  • Manatt Phelps - a team of lawyers from Manatt will be added in October 2018 following analysis of the initial pilot set and refinement of methodology
  • Conduent - working with our data science partner to seamlessly onboard partner law firms
  • Next step - identifying a tech partner to assist with building out effective data visualizations for all of the information being analyzed from the cases

Organisations speak out in defense of sexual assault survivors.

ICAAD joined with International women’s rights organisation Equality Now and 80 other leading women and human’s right groups to place a full page ad in the Washington Post expressing collective concern about attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford since her story of sexual assault was shared. SDG 5 makes it clearly imperative that Gender Equality is objectively better for all, and “there can never be equality in a culture that normalizes or trivializes sexual assault and sexual harassment.” We are proud to stand with all the signatories of the statement published on September 27, 2018 in @washingtonpost. #WhyIDidntReport

Global Transformation towards Gender Equality and Agenda 2030: A conversation about innovative approaches to break the cycle of violence against women

  • ICAAD was invited to present at the Global Transformation conference, which was hosted by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law (Sweden), American University Washington College of Law (USA), Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), and Red Latinoamericana de académico/as del Derecho, with support of the Swedish Embassy in Mexico City.
  • Jaspreet Singh, ICAAD Co-Founder, presented and chaired the panel on: Case Studies on SGBV: Research Methodologies and Perspectives from the Field.

The presentation was specifically on Analysis of Judicial Sentencing Practices in GBV Cases in the Pacific Island Region. It included a discussion of how cases were analyzed and the impact of advocacy resulting from the project, as well as the potential to replicate the methodology in other jurisdictions.

Check out the presentation here.

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Hon. CM Ratuvili with the ICAAD Team
Hon. CM Ratuvili with the ICAAD Team

ICAAD has built credibility with the Fijian Judiciary over 5 years through rule of law trainings, publication of reports centered on judicial bias, and direct engagement with both the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Magistrate, and Chief Registrar of the Family Courts. ICAAD recently got confirmation from the Judiciary that 3 directives (authoritative instructions) ICAAD created have been disseminated to all Magistrate judges in the country. The directives will help improve access to justice for women facing violence:

  • Judges should not reduce a sentence in gender-based violence (GBV) cases based on the belief that the respondent is a first time offender if there is credible testimony, medical evidence, or police reporting that indicates past evidence of violence, even without a previous conviction.
  • Magistrates should not order both parties to attend joint counselling in GBV cases. There is a presumption against pushing for reconciliation in domestic violence civil proceedings and that reconciliation is not applicable in domestic violence criminal proceedings.
  • When a women seeks an Interim Domestic Violence Restraining Order, Magistrates should inform both parties separately that they should seek Legal Aid. Further, the Court should make clear that if one party obtains Legal Aid's services first, the other party is not barred from obtaining assistance because Legal Aid can refer conflicting cases out to law firms.

Thanks to Chief Justice Gates, Chief Magistrate Ratuvili, and Scot Fishman of Manatt for their support in this endeavor. 


TrackGBV is a program to provide data and analysis on GBV cases and increase transparency, consistency, and accountability of the justice systems in Pacific Island Countries. The legal database for TrackGBV has been completed by our tech and data science partner, Conduent. Besides creating a user-friendly database to conduct legal analysis, the Conduent and ICAAD team have been working to develop machine learning algorithms that can assist in making the analysis more efficient.

Furthermore, the analysis of 5000 GBV cases has begun thanks to pro bono partner law firm Linklaters. As we scale up the project, we anticipate bringing on 3-4 other major law firms from the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Also, with the upcoming publication of our Sentencing Handbook on GBV produced with the assistance of Clifford Chance (London), we will be positioned to disseminate the Handbook to judges and civil society advocates throughout the region and conduct further trainings.

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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!


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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!

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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.

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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
$75,316 raised of $80,000 goal
257 donations
$4,684 to go
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