Tonga govt urged to issue mothballed report on children
Tongan rights group calls on government to finally fulfil its obligations under the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
A Tongan rights group has called on the government to safeguard the rights of children by finally issuing a report almost 20 years in the making.
Tonga signed up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the 90s but although it worked on a draft, the islands are one of only two signatories yet to report on the status of children.
The President of Ma'a Fafine mo e Famili Betty Hafoka-Blake told Koro Vaka'uta, the government needs to move towards completing its obligations.
BETTY HAFOKA-BLAKE: The convention Tonga had signed in 1995 and Tonga has the responsibility to do an initial report after two years. The report has been done in draft since then and it has never been sent and not only because the report has not been sent to the committee but I believe what Tonga should have done was to look at the mechanisms and measures to put in place so to be able to apply the convention. My concern is it's far too long. Work has been done but it's almost like it's a might use the word 'being neglected' and that's why I have to raise the concern.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Why do you think there has been this delay?
BHB: There should be a committee on the convention of the rights of the child in Tonga and the secretariat was the Ministry of Education. I believe that the Ministry of Education there had been some rolling-out of people in positions who should do this work for example, the directors. Since 1997 from the draft report that was put together with a very wild consultation and that's why I believe something should have been done but there's some roll-out of people in position and that's where the hold-up was now. However some concern has to be raised. Somebody has to move it.
KV: Do you think the political willpower is there to move on this issue?
BHB: I think there is very, very weak political willpower. On the other hand I believe that Tonga feels that they're doing what they need to do with education, with health, with what happened to our children but I believe that there should be a lot more development on issues and measures in place to raise the status of children in Tonga. There's so much there to do. If Tonga use the convention as a baseline and even our legislation. We can look at our legislation, we can review our legislation. If we continue to do this we can harmonise our legislation in line with the convention.
KV: With your work amongst family and children, how would you describe how children are treated and the status of children in Tongan society?
BHB: Because we believe in how we discipline children in Tonga but we have found in a study on domestic violence against women in Tonga it's very alarming the numbers of children who are being physically abused since the age of 15. Something has to be done because of our cultural belief that do not spare the rod and spoil the child, we want to see what is the alternative. We need CRC. We need some measures for the government to consider.
The Minster of Education says the government has worked on the CRC report for the past two years and is hoping to present it to the UN by the end of the year.
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