The Pacific region has one of the highest documented rates of violence against women in the world, with as many as 69 per cent of women reporting having experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Recent research in the region is stimulating new discussion on responses to the scourge.
Following a regional consultation the MPs, in a strong statement, acknowledged that violence against women and girls is persistent in the region, stressed the importance of empowering women and affirming positive models of masculinity in their response, and the need for clear political will to respond effectively.
“Strong political commitment is needed to ensure that Pacific women can lead lives free from fear and violence,” said Dame Carol Kidu, a former Papua New Guinea parliamentarian. “Leaders from all 22 Pacific nations should commit to this statement and lead the region to change this shameful reality.”
As legislators and policymakers, the group agreed on the need to strengthen laws and institutional structures, including both formal and informal justice systems. Traditional justice systems are often the only available avenue for justice in the Pacific, where the majority of the population live in rural areas and outer islands. They also call for active youth participation as important agents of change.
The parliamentarians' statement came out of a regional consultation organized in Brisbane, Australia by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (a body that provides governments with technical support).
One full day of the consultation drew on recent research in the Pacific for its discussion on transformative strategies. UN Women provided technical support on the issue during the consultation as part of its broader support for governments and civil society actors across the Pacific in addressing violence against women and girls.
Countries in the Pacific are using the latest data to inform legislative and policy change, with draft legislation under development in several countries. Some countries, among them Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, have developed national action plans to take concerted action on the issue, and development partners are supporting the implementation of these in partnership with governments.
In signing the historic statement, the parliamentarians joined heads of state, ministers and parliamentarians from over 75 countries worldwide that have expressed political will to make ending violence against women a top priority with the Say NO- UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign.
Signatories represented the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
To learn more about UN Women's work in the Pacific Region, read UN Women's story on health and safety for women in Pacific Markets, or watch its recent video from Papua New Guinea's Port Moresby on the work of its Safe Cities global programme to make urban spaces safer for women and girls.