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Inequality the root of domestic violence: U.N.

Domestic violence in Samoa is mounting but economic pressures are just triggers, the country's U.N.'s Resident Coordinator, Simona Marinescu, who believes the status of women in society is the fundamental cause. 

Making reference to the recent cases of domestic violence being reported by the media from court, the coordinator was asked whether the lack of jobs and youth unemployment is linked to the cause of violence happening in families.

"We consider that all the social problems that we are seeing here are triggers, not root causes," she said.

"Root causes are primarily anchored into inequalities and such is in every society, not only here. And talking about inequalities of rights, we still see women not represented at all levels of society."

The nation was shocked on Thursday by reports from Court of a man from Savai’i who repeatedly assaulted his pregnant wife, while she was holding a child and bleeding profusely from head injuries.

The Office of the Ombudsman’s two-year inquiry, released last year, painted a damning picture of the extent of domestic violence problems. 

Ms. Marinescu said that it is evident that women were still underrepresented in society.

"We still see women looked at as individuals that should focus primarily on children and not necessarily equal partners in everything," said Ms. Marinescu.

"And we see fewer women represented in very high positions in the country, talking about Ministers and member of the parliament.

"So this type of inequalities, like in some places are culturally generated or fostered and some parts of the world that are just because women have not claimed that space is the primary causes of what is happening are in families and in relationships."

The U.N. Resident Coordinator said said women are given their equal space and rights are respected, but Samoa should be expecting fewer domestic violence cases.

"So we want to contribute to a cultural shift everywhere, not only in Samoa, to ensure that women are seen as equal partners and women have their rights respected and they have access to opportunities everywhere," she said.

"And as they become more asserted and more empowered they will become fewer victims and less exposed to violence in their families."

"So that’s the way we approach that and youth employment and absence of jobs is obviously a trigger but those are the things we want to address while also going deeper into the inequality aspect."

Ms. Marinescu assured that the U.N. are working closely with communities and at the national level is tackling the issue.

"We want to see more investment in that area, again youth employment had 1.5 US million dollars in the first phase and we aim to out much more into the second phase," she said. 

Ninety per cent of intimate partner violence in Samoa goes unreported, according to the national Inquiry into family violence. Of the 90 per cent of unreported partner violence, the Samoa Family Health and Safety Study of 2006 found 86 per cent believe their abuse is normal or not serious. Some 70 per cent believed their abuse was justified.

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