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Openness 'disinfectant' for abuse: U.N.

News reports about children and women being assaulted and their abusers being punished by the law are an essential "disinfectant" for solving a national problem of abuse, the United Nations Children's Fund has said. 

On Thursday, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said the media “enjoys” reporting on sexual crimes that depicts Samoa in a negative light.

But Sheldon Yett, the Pacific Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund, said with due sensitivity and respect to victims, the media plays an important role in the mission to end violence. 

"Whenever you have an accusation or an incident like this it does tremendous damage to a community and of course to the individual and their family, there is no question of that," he said on the sidelines of the Convention on the Rights of the Child session held in Samoa this week.

"But we have to be comfortable discussing such issues. If we can't find a way to discuss sensitive issues, those issues will continue.  

"I don't know the specific comments of the Prime Minister but the media has a central role in ensuring that issues of violence against children, violence against women are addressed and addressed professionally and in a way so we don't keep seeing these kinds of cases.”

Tuilaepa was speaking during his weekly interview with Radio 2AP, when he was asked about the 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child hosted in Apia.

The next morning, he helped launch the Samoan branch of the global Spotlight Initiative, a European Union and U.N. project, which is donating $10.6 million to Samoa. 

"We must break the culture of silence," Tuilaepa told the audience of civil society and Government delegations from Samoa and beyond.

Mr. Yett said while reporting on sexual crimes, especially against children, must be done responsibly, "we found that sunlight is often the best disinfectant”. 

"I don't think there is any society in the world that is immune from these ills. I think it's important we recognise it. Unless we recognise it it's hard to move forward on that."

Mr. Yett said a community has to talk about its toughest issues, or they will persist.

"The Government of Samoa has been very clear that all children should be protected, all women should be protected," he recalled.

"It's important we are able to discuss sensitive issues in a sensitive way.

"All communities are in this together. How they tackle it is an issue that needs to be discussed within communities but often putting it on the table in a sensitive way is one of the first steps."

Asked about the Prime Minister's comments, Ambassador for the European Union Sujiro Seam said having Tuilaepa present at the launch is proof of his commitment to the project.

"What we need is leadership," he said. "We count on the regional and global leadership of Samoa to address the matter.

"So I hope the funding from the E.U. with the expertise of the U.N. agencies involved and with the commitment of the Government of Samoa we will all achieve the objectives we have to eliminate violence against women and girls and break the culture of silence."

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