New Cooks bill will recognise domestic violence
The Cook Islands could see a radical change in the way domestic violence is dealt with after the introduction of the Family Law Bill.
The Cook Islands could see radical changes in the way domestic violence is dealt under the Family Law Bill.
The new legislation aims to modernise family law in the areas of divorce, domestic and child support, parenting arrangements and the care and protection of children.
Indira Moala reports.
A Family Health Survey completed last year by the UN and the Ministry of Health showed one in three Cook Islands women from the age of 15 to 64 had experienced physical or sexual violence. Kairangi Samuela was a part of the Punanga Tauturu Counselling Centre which had been at the forefront of the push for a law change. She says the survey provided evidence that supported their call for a new bill which would include charges for domestic violence.
KAIRANGI SAMUELA: The biggest thing for us was the domestic violence provisions. There was no domestic violence provision recognised under the crime's act or anywhere else. So that was a big issue for us was to get domestic violence recognised under law somewhere.
Domestic violence incidents are currently treated as assault. The secretary of internal affairs, Bredina Drollet, says the bill would now allow for more than just physical abuse to be prosecuted.
BREDINA DROLLET: In terms of domestic violence, what the bill will do that current laws don't provide is that it will define domestic violence. So it actually gives a definition which includes things like stalking as well as psychological...and the economic dependence and withholding the economic capacity from women, as violence. So it's broader than just the physical aspects. So it defines economic abuse, it defines physical abuse, sexual abuse - so all of those are part of domestic violence.
The Family Law Bill will also increase the penalty for domestic violence incidents by revising the current Crime Act. Nikki Rattle, the parliamentary speaker and former president of the National Council of Women, says she fully supports the bill.
NIKKI RATTLE: I just think it's an excellent bill. You know it certainly is going to look at taking care of the rights of the children and I think that the family as a whole is going to be dealt with in an amicable way between parents and for the best interest of the child.
The Family Law Bill will also allow the government to apply for court orders to place a child in their care if they believed that a child is in need of protection. It would also enable the government to call a meeting to give family members the opportunity to determine whether a child is in need of care and protection.
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