Human Rights experts on fact-finding mission

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Kamala Chandrakirana.

Kamala Chandrakirana. (Photo: Celebration of Women)

United Nations, Human Rights experts who are in Samoa for a 10-day fact-finding mission, have concluded an open dialogue on ‘taboo’ subjects,  the meaning of the ‘Samoan way of life’ (Fa’asamoa) and ensuring women’s rights to equality within the family. 

The Working Group yesterday held a press conference at Taumeasina Island Resort and presented the media with the preliminary report on numerous issues pertaining to the rights of women.  

The delegation is led by Kamala Chandrakirana, who currently heads the U.N. Working Group on Discrimination against Women. 

Another Human Rights expert, Eleonora Zielinska said they visited Apia and the villages of Poutasi and Vavau. 

Consultations was held with representatives of the Salani, Sapoe, Utulaelae, Siuniu, Salesatele, Salelesi communities as well as Government officials, representatives of State institutions, civil society organizations, individuals, religious leaders and academics. 

Chandrakirana said: “We welcome the adoption of laws that honour Samoa’s constitution and international human rights obligations regarding discrimination against women and gender-based violence, in particular the criminalization of domestic violence, the legal guarantee of employment equality, and the constitutional requirement for minimum quotas of women in parliament. 

“However, these laws cannot be fully effective unless women’s sexual and reproductive rights are met and they are economically empowered.” 

Furthermore, it was pointed out that addressing the root causes of violence against women will require a major shift in cultural perceptions about women and their place in society. 

The experts said many Samoans had been profoundly shocked by a recent government report revealing the scale of gender-based violence. 

Ms. Chandrakirana points out the significant efforts have already been put into changing cultural perceptions, with encouraging results, but major leaps are still necessary. 

“There is still a huge need for open dialogue on ‘taboo’ subjects and on the meaning of the ‘Samoan way of life’ (fa’asamoa) and ensuring women’s right to equality within the family. 

“This cannot happen without the leadership of government and other local stakeholders, including community and religious leaders, alongside women and men at all levels of society,” she said. 

According to Ms. Chandrakirana, Samoa is only at the beginning of a long journey. 

“There is a sense of urgency in making necessary reforms in the nation’s laws, policies and institutions to address these changes, while tensions and contradictions in social, cultural and political practice abound. 

“With a growing youth population, this is the right time to fully honour women’s rights by ending gender-based violence, while tackling some of the misunderstandings about human rights, recognizing that family life is at the core of Samoan society.” 

The experts urged new policies including a state-sponsored social welfare system, full support for women and girls who had suffered sexual or physical violence, and better funding for the civil society groups making an immense contribution despite limited resources.

The Working Group will present as full report including recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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