BANGKOK (TrustLaw) – Two out of three women on Pacific islands suffer from violence, one of the highest rates in the world, Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday.
The rights group urged regional leaders meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, to take urgent steps to “eradicate endemic violence against women in the region.”
Amnesty also said leaders at the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting on Tuesday should complete and enact draft legislation against sexual and gender-based violence and ensure that police and prosecutors investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators.
“A majority of women experience abuse in the Pacific. Yet, shockingly, there are few effective mechanisms to protect them,” Patrick Holmes, chief executive of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealandm, said.
Many are harassed, attacked and sexually assaulted while carrying out everyday household duties in a male-dominated culture which puts disproportionate burdens on women, Amnesty said, citing the examples in its latest report, “Where is the dignity in that? Women in Solomon Islands denied sanitation and safety.”
According to the report, women and girls in the Solomon Islands are often attacked while walking long distances – a kilometre or more – from informal settlements in the capital, Honiara, to collect clean water or to visit toilets. Their journeys often take them through remote and poorly lit areas.
LAWS TO PROTECT WOMEN LACKING
Amnesty said it spoke to a number of women in the Solomon Islands who said they were physically or sexually abused by men outside their household, but were too frightened to make formal complaints for fear of reprisals.
Meanwhile, violence against women within the family continues to be seen as a private issue on the islands, with police and other officials reluctant to intervene.
Amnesty said sexual and gender-based violence is “an entrenched, systematic and widespread human rights problem” in the Pacific, with devastating impacts not only on individual women but on communities and the region as a whole.
Few countries in the Pacific have specific legislation outlawing gender-based violence – for example, according to a 2008 report, marital rape is not a criminal offence in the Solomon Islands.
During a 2009 meeting in Cairns, Australia, PIF leaders pledged to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence, Amnesty said.