14 Jul 2015

Confusion abounds in Tonga's ratification of CEDAW

8:44 pm on 14 July 2015

The Director of the Women and Children's Crisis Centre in Tonga says there is confusion in the country over who has the authority to sign United Nations treaties.

The Privy Council has told the government to reconsider its decision to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) saying the constitution says that only the King can make treaties with foreign states.

Tonga is one of only seven countries in the world to have not ratified the convention, and the government's intention to ratify it has sparked multiple petitions and marches.

The Prime Minister, Akilisi Pohiva, says the government will hold a referendum on signing CEDAW after a public consultation exercise.

Tongan women protest against the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, arguing it includes counter-culture clauses such as same sex marriage and abortion.

Tonga's plans to ratify CEDAW has sparked protests Photo: Broadcomfm Broadcasting / Facebook

The Women and Children's Crisis Centre's director, Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, says the Privy Council decision is confusing, as other international treaties have been signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"If it comes to a point that in fact all conventions under the UN framework - that that's included in 'treaties', under section 39 of the Constitution, then that's something new that a lot of people were not aware of. So it's good to be clear on who exactly has the authority to sign all conventions and all treaties."