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Ending Domestic Violence in Pacific Island Countries: The Critical Role of Law by Christine Forster


Domestic violence is pervasive, widespread, and a serious national issue in Pacific countries.  As international obligations to address violence against women gain visibility and currency in the region, Pacific leaders have begun to call for measures, legal and non-legal, in response.  Indeed, at the recent 40th Pacific Forum, the Forum leaders “acknowledged the prevalence of gender-based violence in the Pacific and the risk that it poses to human security” and collectively committed to the “eradication of gender-based violence.”  It is timely therefore to identify and assess which strategies are appropriate to the culture and context of the Pacific in order to work towards reducing and ultimately ending domestic violence in Pacific Island Countries (“PICs”).  While a variety of policy and educative measures have already been implemented in many PICs, including the establishment of police and judicial training, education programs, crisis centers, and government task forces, this article suggests that the role of law in the prevention of domestic violence is still underutilized in the region.  This article examines the legislative frameworks of 14 PICs (the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tokalau, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) and assesses their capacity to respond to domestic violence.  Of these countries, four (Samoa, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and the Cook Islands) have domestic violence legislation, albeit minimal.  The rest, other than Vanuatu, have no targeted domestic violence legislation.  Vanuatu, which introduced a comprehensive civil and criminal domestic violence law in 2008, is examined separately for its potential to provide a good practice example for the region . . .

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