10 May 2016

Solomons hopes to end silence on domestic violence

12:36 pm on 10 May 2016

The Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth and Children's Affairs says a new set of laws that criminalise domestic violence and increase penalties for sexual offences aim to change attitudes.

A policy coordinator at the ministry, Vaila Ngai, said that domestic and sexual violence were traditionally considered taboo topics to be dealt with by immediate family, not the community.

But she hoped that awareness workshops and training around the new laws would help people see violence as a matter of national concern.

"You know if you have a suspicion that violence is going on, you know that there is a law and you know how you can help," she said. "Previously people think it is just, you know, a private matter, none of our business lets not do anything.

"So you want to see that whole behavioural attitude change generally across the public."

The Solomon Islands government has updated the penal code to introduce harsher penalties for sexual violence and defined a range of serious offences, particularly those committed against children.

Ma Ngai said the amendments complemented the Family Protection Act, which criminalises domestic violence.

"It also strengthens the other legislations especially the Family Protection Act and it comes down to government's commitment to addressing this issue of violence against women," said Ms Ngai.

"You know, looking at it as a national issue no longer a private matter as previously thought."

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