Why Samoa needs an Inquiry on family violence

By Maiava Iulai Toma 10 December 2016, 12:00AM

Why a National Inquiry at this time?

An important responsibility of the Office as a National Human Rights Institution is to initiate NATIONAL INQUIRIES into “widespread, systemic or entrenched situations or practices that violate human rights.” 

O se tasi o tiute tauave taua a lo tatou Ofisa o le faia lea o ni sailiiliga e aofia ai le atunuu atoa e faasino i ni tulaga ua maitauina  ua matua faamanu’alia ai aia faa le tagata soifua o tagata o le atunuu.

Ua i ai nei le faamoemoe o le a faatinoina i le tausaga fou se uluai sailiiliga faapea a lo tatou atunuu, ma e faasino lea sailiiliga i le “sauaina o tamaitai ma tamaiti i totonu o aiga.” 

E le o se mea e taumateina, e le gata o le faateteleina o le sauaina o tamaitai ma tamaiti ae ua matua sosopo fo’i i ni tulaga mataga le sauaina o fanau teine a si o tatou atunuu.

Ua tatou faitau pea i nusipepa, matamata i TV i faamatalaga o nei mea. Ua tatou vaaia le anoano o polokalame ma galuega o loo faatinoina e le malo, e Leoleo, e le Faamasinoga, e NGO ma le faateteleina pea o galuega fesoasoani o loo faia e le Samoa Victim Support Group.

Ua anoano le faamaonia o le faamanu’alia o tina ma tamaitai- - i o latou tino, ua maliliu nisi; ae le gata i lea o le faamanu’alia o loto ma mafaufau i le nofo pologa pea lava pea i le fefe ma le mata’u po’o afea e toe feagai ai ma le tiga. 

O le mea moni, e le o taitai ona iloa atoatoa le lautele ma le loloto o le faafitauli, aua e faigata i le toatele ona faalauiloaina le tiga, poo le mataga fo’i o loo o latou taumafai e nana lilo.

What is a National Inquiry?

A National Inquiry is the most powerful tool a National Human Rights Institution has to look into complex human rights problems with the participation of the general public. It is done with precautions where necessary to ensure that vulnerable people are not hurt in the process.   

One or more reports are produced on the work of the Inquiry, its conclusions and its recommendations. 

An important aspect is the high educational value an inquiry has because it highlights and explains a complex situation to the broad community.


Focus of the first National Public Inquiry

Samoa’s first National Public Inquiry will be on “Violence in the Samoan home” be it in the extended communal setting or the small unit.

The primary focus will be on women and girls with attention also on the role and impact of violence on children as they grow and develop in Samoa and any other serious issues arising from the Inquiry.

By “Violence” we mean physical, sexual, emotional or other forms in conformity with the legal definition of violence in the Family Safety Act 2013. 

Why Family Violence?

Family Violence is a serious issue in Samoa. 



It is evident from reports we see on TV and the newspapers; we see also the many projects and programs by the Government, the Courts, NGOs and the community to address violence. We see the expanding operations of organisations such as the Samoa Victims Support Group.

These measures are valuable components of a national effort to cope with the problem but they struggle to keep up with a problem that continues to grow.


It is clear from surveys such as the Samoa Family Health and Safety Study 2006 that:

Domestic violence is widespread with sometimes extremely serious consequences for life and limb.

Incidents are under-reported for obvious reasons. The true scale of human rights violations and crimes in the form of domestic violence are never truly known in any country including Samoa. 

International concern 

There is international concern urged upon Samoa to address domestic violence with regards to women, girls and children. Recommendations from our Universal Periodic Review Report earlier this year reflect this.

Rather than continuing to be reactive Samoa through this Inquiry is being more proactive with regard to the problem. It is looking at family violence in the Samoan context with a view to opening up the issue and to understanding the problem ourselves for the shameful thing that it is, and laying out strategies and counter-measures that make sense to us and which are workable in Samoa. 

Ua matua tatau ona faatalanoaina lautele le mataupu o le PULE sauaina o Tamaitai ma Tamaiti i totonu o aiga Samoa. Aua e eseese mea. E ese le pule ma le taitai fa’aleulu o se aiga, ese le sauaina e le tagata malosi o se tasi e itiiti ifo sona malosi e pei o tina ma fanau. E faaigoaina le mea lena e nisi ole “Bullying”. O tagata faapea, e suamalie i lo latou lagona le sa’olele o le “paoa” po’o le lē seua o se malosi ua latou uumia.

Ua tatau ia i tatou  tagata Samoa ona silasila manino i le mea o loo tupu i totonu o o tatou aiga ma lo tatou atunu’u. E le o se mea o faia e tagata uma. Leai, o le toatele o tane Samoa, e le o se latou masani lea; ae o le saua soona fai o se mea o loo tuputupu ae ma faateteleina ma afaina ai i tatou uma. ---Aua o e o loo mafatia i nei faiga, o o tatou tina, tuafafine, uso, fanau. O tupe foi o loo alu i le faatinoina o galuega a Leoleo, Faamasinoga, Falepuipui ma isi mea uma ua fai ona o lenei faafitauli, o a tatou tupe. E le o ni tupe a nisi. 

O le sailiiliga o le a faatino i le tausaga fou o se avanoa taua e faatalanoaina ai le mataupu e i tatou lava ma manatunatu i ni fofo e talafeagai ma mafai ona faatino e i tatou lava. O se avanoa taua foi mo i latou sa mafatia po o mafatia pea i le sauaina e tatala mai ni lagona o nonofo ma i latou.   

How will the Inquiry be conducted?

Inquiry Commissioners

As announced the Inquiry will have a panel of four Commissioners comprised of three prominent Samoans as external Commissioners and myself as the chairman.


The success of this Inquiry is dependent on the participation of the Samoan population. 

This is because it is intended to be an open non- judgmental discussion of views and attitudes held by us all who live with the problem of family violence in this country. The idea is for people to freely voice their thoughts and views on the issue. 


Stakeholder Consultations-

Consultations have already been carried out by the Inquiry staff with organizations who are doing work on Family Violence 

Community Consultations- 

Early next year 2017, the Inquiry Staff will consult Village communities. Details have yet to be finalized but villages will be selected from Upolu, Savaii, Manono and Apolima. 

Public Hearings- 

Once the village consultations are completed, people will have opportunity to speak directly to the Inquiry Commission as sufferers/survivors, perpetrators, stakeholders or other relevant capacity. The Commission will be going out to different places in Upolu, Savaii, possibly Manono and Apolima depending on the extent of interest to appear before the Commission.  

Sittings of the Commission will normally be open to the general public but it will sit in closed hearings where anonymity and issues of sensitivity demand. 

It is important for survivors or those experiencing Family Violence to know that they will be able to come forward in a secure environment to tell their stories without fear of adverse repercussion upon them. 

It is very important also for the Commissioners to hear the voices of the survivors themselves to gauge the true impact of Family Violence. 

Perpetrators who wish to express views on why things happen as they do will be very welcome to contribute to the dialogue. The objective of the process is to understand, not to judge. 

Written submissions- 

The Commission will accept written submissions from those wishing to submit. This is another option open to survivors to tell their stories in complete anonymity. 

Possible results of the Inquiry?

It is clear from the findings of the State of Human Rights Report 2015 that many see family violence as a cultural norm. If the Inquiry confirms this, it will want to know why and how this has become the situation in Samoa and it would want to make recommendations to address this belief. 

The Inquiry will foster a national conversation on family violence, to reveal the full dimensions of our family violence problem. Understanding the true scale, nature and the attitudes we espouse on family violence should better enable us to decide as a community how best to bring about a different Samoa with regard to domestic violence. The ultimate solutions will need to be formulated with communal understanding and consensus but the fundamental GOAL before us is: To do what is best for the women and children of Samoa who are suffering in growing numbers from family violence. 

The Inquiry we think will expose existing under-utilized capacities and opportunities in village governance mechanisms and other social institutions that can profitably be called upon to combat family violence and/or to educate against it. 

A further key area for potential findings is the effectiveness of the services and support available to survivors of family violence. The under-reporting of family violence could be a significant issue with the Inquiry possibly wanting to look into causes and barriers that exist.  


The Inquiry will be carried out over a period of 12 months commencing January 2017. This timeframe will include all the public hearings, the consultations, research and the preparation of the final report. 

Concluding Remarks

Violence in the Samoan family is a problem. It is extensive and may even be fortified by attitudes that are embedded in our traditional communal society.

I believe Samoa can forge a solution for itself in Domestic Violence if it approaches it as a societal problem of national concern to be solved not by the Government alone but by the Government in strong practical collaboration with traditional village councils, churches and others.

O lo’u talitonuga lena. E matua mafai e lo tatou atunuu ona fofoina le sauaina pea o tamaitai ma tamaiti i totonu o o tatou aiga pe’a tatou ‘apoina o se faafitauli ua avea ma gasegase mataga  I totonu I lo tatou atunuu. Ae faatoa mafai ona faatoilaloina lenei mataga pea tatou le tuulafoaia, e pei ona tatou faia nei, ose faafitauli e fefaafetoaia e na o Leoleo, le Faamasinoga ma le Falepuipui a le Malo --- ‘ae nofonofo, sei tulou, pe papaaao le mamalu o le atunuu ma ana pulega taua faamatai i totonu o aiga, i totonu o nu’u ma alalafaga atoa foi ma ona malosiaga faaletapuaiga.

In a nutshell -The National Inquiry hopes to facilitate (1) a comprehensive understanding of Domestic Violence in Samoa and (2) the formulation of workable countermeasures that the Samoan Community can embrace.

Samoa needs to start a dialogue of self – examination now and decide to do what it needs to do to rid itself as much as possible of violence in the home.

By Maiava Iulai Toma 10 December 2016, 12:00AM

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