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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
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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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. 

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Let's promote justice for girls in PICs
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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Chief Justice Anthony Gates, Supreme Court of Fiji
Chief Justice Anthony Gates, Supreme Court of Fiji

ICAAD has continued to make tremendous progress on its innovative new initiative, TrackGBV, a regional sentencing database that provides advocates and judges tools and data to improve access to justice for women and girls in gender-based violence cases. We are developing TrackGBV in conjunction with the University of the South Pacific School of Law, six international law firms, and two technology companies.

From March 2nd -15th, ICAAD traveled to 3 countries (Australia, Vanuatu, and Fiji) and 5 cities (Brisbane, Melbourne, Suva, Nadi, and Port Vila) to meet and partner with local civil society organizations, women’s rights advocates, and government officials. The aim of our trip was to lay the ground work for rule of law trainings for advocates, lawyers, and judges based on the data from TrackGBV, to ensure the judiciary would be more transparent in providing access to key domestic violence and sexual offense cases, and to meet with Embassy officials from the U.S., Britain, and Australia to discuss support of the initiative. 

Here is a list of next steps based on conversations with some of the local stakeholders:

  • University of South Pacific (Port Vila, Vanuatu): Develop 6-week human rights training program focused on gender bias in the judiciary
  • University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia): Identify students who may participate in-person or virtually in the human rights program at USP
  • Vanuatu Women’s Centre (Port Vila, Vanuatu): Training on ICAAD’s methodology for looking at gender bias in domestic violence and sexual offence cases and the integration of the VWC team into the human rights training program
  • Police-Justice Support Unit and Ministry of Justice (Port Vila, Vanuatu): Work to get the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Vanuatu to make magistrate level cases publicly available. Domestic violence cases first go through the magistrate courts.
  • Regional Resource Rights Team (RRRT – Suva, Fiji): Understand how we can assist their ongoing work with magistrate training in Tonga and Solomon Islands
  • Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM – Suva, Fiji): Assist FWRM on their collaboration with Medical Services Pacific (MSP) on case-law analysis and the importance of documentation at health centers in GBV cases
  • Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Suva, Fiji): Met with Justice Gates to explore possibility of judicial training and procuring case-law data for TrackGBV

On behalf of the entire ICAAD team, thank you for your ongoing support! 

Vanuatu Women's Centre- Lynrose, Margret, and Vola
Vanuatu Women's Centre- Lynrose, Margret, and Vola
Univ. of Queensland- Faculty, Admin., Students
Univ. of Queensland- Faculty, Admin., Students

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Organization Information

International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)

Location: Chappaqua, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ICAADglobal
Project Leader:
Hansdeep Singh
Co-Founder, Director of Legal Programmes
Chappaqua, NY United States
$76,477 raised of $95,000 goal
 
287 donations
$18,523 to go
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