Tonga minister says CEDAW not dead
Tonga's Minister for Internal Affairs says he's still hopeful a controversial women's rights convention will be ratified despite reports the government is dropping the issue.
Tonga's Minister for Internal Affairs is still backing the ratification of a controversial women's rights convention despite reports the government is dropping it.
Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva told parliament the government was stepping back from ratifying the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, after opponents said it would open the way for same-sex marriage and abortion.
But Fe'ao Vakata told Koro Vaka'uta there will now be more time for consultations.
FE'AO VAKATA: I have talked and met with my women's division and asked them to please do another consultation because I'm pretty sure that a lot of people are misinformed and misled about what CEDAW is. I think they're appraising it as a convention to allow same-sex marriages, family planning and so forth, but you know it's about women. I think the prime minister wants more consultation about CEDAW, probably this year, next year. Once we've done that, we'll re-look at it.
KORO VAKA'UTA: I understand the government has already done consultations before?
FV: There were consultations before but now people are claiming that they weren't involved in the consultations. But there were consultations that have been conducted before about CEDAW. But I think we'll take it back to the villages and communities and welcome them to ask about what CEDAW is and everything about CEDAW.
KV: Do you expect that with more information or background on CEDAW, people may change their minds about any objections?
FV: Well, of course, I think a lot of people now are beginning to understand what CEDAW is. I think it's much more political than the actual convention itself. I felt that a lot of people are beginning to understand what CEDAW is. We have printed the Tongan translation of the convention on the newspapers and such for people to read and be aware of what CEDAW is before we come around and do the consultations.
KV: I see the prime minister has expressed concern that the country is being divided by this. Do you see that as well?
FV: From what we have seen of the petitions from the people... but unfortunately, the petitions were led by men, the church leaders and such. But that's very unfortunate, personally for myself. I hope that after the consultations, people will be more understanding about CEDAW. But I still think that we should still pursue the right purpose of the convention.
KV: And as well as consultations, there's been talk of a referendum and legislation to allow a referendum. That's something that's happening too?
FV: The prime minister has directed that enact the transcript but I still think whether the referendum or not. But I think people should understand clearly what CEDAW is, and we should see what is happening here in Tonga, especially the vilence against women. I think that should speak for itself, why we should be ratifying CEDAW.
KV: So from your perspective as a minister for internal affairs, the reports we saw was that the government has backed off in some way, but you believe the stance remains the same, in regards to CEDAW?
FV: Yes, yes. It's fair to say, we have... in regard to CEDAW... it's just the consultation to be done.
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