24 Aug 2015

Samoan report clarifies rights confusion

2:34 pm on 24 August 2015

The acting head of the United Nations Human Rights Office in the Pacific says Samoa's first Human Rights Review may help the people realise that culture can take human rights into account.

The report in Samoa, released last week, revealed areas of concern including that some Samoans view human rights as a foreign concept.

Samoa's first Periodic Human Rights Review report highlights abuse suffered at the hands of a woman's husband or her mother in law.  Aug 2015

Samoa's first Periodic Human Rights Review report highlights abuse suffered at the hands of a woman's husband or her mother in law. Photo: RNZ / Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

It says this may come down to the interpretation of the Samoan translation of the words 'human rights' -- aia tatau.

It says 'aia' on its own implies a lack of control, which the report suggests could be the source of the idea of culture being incompatible with rights.

The UN's Catherine Phuong agrees there is a misconception.

"What this report does quite well and explains it quite clearly is that human rights is actually not incompatible with Samoan culture. That human rights is based on a number of values which include tolerance and respect which are also a part of Samoan culture."

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