Women's group says land laws still need addressing
A Women's group in Tonga says 80 percent of domestic violence victims are going back into a violent environment.
A women's group in Tonga says 80 percent of domestic violence victims are going back into a violent environment.
The Women and Children Crisis Centre has assisted more than 1800 women and children since 2009.
The centre's director 'Ofa Likiliki says most of the people they have helped have ended up returning to a violent situation.
She says the land laws, which restrict women from owning land, have created a tough situation.
'OFA LIKILIKI: For example in New Zealand if there is a victim who presents herself as coming from a violent home, a violent situation and she doesn't want to return because she knows that the violence will escalate, there are systems and processes in place under the NZ social welfare system to ensure that she has access to safe housing, transitional housing and even a supportive income to allow her to start a new life. Unfortunately in Tonga we don't have that social welfare system set up.
The crisis centre, over the years, has anecdotal evidence of more than 80 percent of its domestic violence clients, and we are talking about women, who return to the violent environment because there is no other option. We try the cultural social net where we approach her family. We approach her brother, who of course is taking over the family land and the family house, but you know, Tonga is not the way it used to be. Tonga is very much a monetary-based economy now. For a brother to take in his sister and her six children is a huge ask. Those social safety nets are just weakening so much. This is a huge area where the Government needs to prioritise because we are sending victims back to the violent environment and it's only because we just have no other option. And of course linked to land - women can't own land in Tonga. When you marry in Tonga, you go and live in your husband's house and you live on your husband's land so if there is a domestic violence situation and you leave the house, you can't really go back and say to your husband 'can you leave?'.
The systems are so weak at the moment we just need to increase our efforts in our policy, increase our efforts in legislation like land and increase in our efforts in attitudes and behaviours.
KORO VAKA'UTA: With the land, maybe a few years ago there was a commission or a review of that ownership issue. Is there anything coming out of that that looks promising in regards to women?
OL: That is one thing we are looking forward to with this new Government. The crisis centre was the only non-government organisation which put in a submission in terms of recommendations for women owning land. Out of that, one of the recommendations was that women were allowed to legally register and own town allotments so not hereditary plots but town allotments so that was a huge step forward for us.
However those recommendations have been shelved. We did mention that none of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the land inquiry have not been actioned in our UPR report, the Universal Periodic Review report for Tonga, and the Government did accept the recommendations that were given by state members to consider implementing those recommendations. So with this new Government in place we hope to follow up on the UPR recommendations and the recommendations coming out of the commission report. So that is one step further.
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