16 Jun 2016

Place of human rights in Samoan culture raises concern

7:22 pm on 16 June 2016

A United Nations committee has raised concerns about what it describes as a widespread belief in Samoa that human rights and traditional law (Fa'a Samoa) contradict each other.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child raised the issue in a review last week, saying it was particularly true at the village level and among church leaders.

But the chief executive of Samoa's Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development disagrees.

Beth Onesemo says research conducted by the University of Samoa has shown that these perceptions do not reflect the true Fa'a Samoa but rather a mix of Samoan and introduced religous teachings.

"The challenge for us is to ensure that we start unpacking some of the myths around so called, conflict and contradiction and try to get back to identifying what is true Samoan culture as opposed to post-european contact practices," said Ms Onesemo.

The committee also recommended that Samoa prohibit physical punishment, raise the minimum age for criminal responsibility from ten, stop the use of children as street vendors, and introduce compulsory free primary education.