Demand on Govt. to act to stamp out family violence

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By Sapeer Mayron, 17 September 2018

The report from the national Inquiry into family violence has several demands of the Government, which, if accepted, will help Samoa defeat family violence.

Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman, Samoa’s national human rights institution, released its final report into a two-year national inquiry into family violence.

Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma said if all the findings and recommendations in the report are accepted, Samoa can defeat family violence and violence as a whole. 

“The price of power, belligerence and ignorance is not worth the pain and suffering of those people and everyone else who is fated to endure violence in their lives. 

“Neither is it worth the damage that it will do to the Fa’asamoa and to faith in the long term if these value systems cannot adapt to prove their worth and defeat this social illness,” the report stated.

At the launch, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malilegaoi called on the nation to “take action to address this issue head on at last”.

This piece highlights just some of the many recommendations the commissioners made to Government for immediate or urgent action. 

“Cost is no barrier to enacting the recommendations in this report,” Ombudsman Maiava said in his report conclusion.

“They will pay for themselves over time; such is the drain on our economy family violence causes. 

“It is not just a drain on our resources, but a drain on our moral compass and values. We need to take meaningful action before it is too late.”

The first of 39 recommendations is that Government should establish a family violence Prevention Office with gender equality at the forefront of all its objectives.

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The office, alongside a national family violence prevention strategy and communications strategy and council and taskforce, should provide the foundation for a coordinated inter-agency response to family violence.

Established under the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, the office would be “responsible for the overall implementation of the National Family Safety Strategy, coordinate agency responses and activities, implement and participate in activities, facilitate training for key actors, awareness raising, data collection and monitoring and evaluation,” the report states.

Some of these key actors are schools, police and healthcare providers, which should be sites of safety for victims of violence, the report said. 

Government should strengthen the corporal punishment ban, not weaken it, and educate society on the impacts of violence.

Police and health services should be trained to recognise family violence as a national issue requiring plans for their roles in attending to victims and perpetrators.

The report recommended both institutions undergo training into the causes and impacts of family violence, as well as improving their data collection, documentation and developing formal referral systems. 

Furthermore, the state is obligated to provide universally accessible shelters to victims. 

The report recommends an independent party should assess the level of need in Samoa and whether N.G.O’s, Government, or some combination of the two should provide the shelters.

As Samoa’s national human right’s institution, the office of the ombudsman would be the monitor of standards for these shelters.

As well as shelters, Samoa should be establishing a national family violence crisis centre with certified in house counsellors, alongside a national qualification for counsellors.

Currently, N.G.Os does not receive support or coordination by Government. 

A national service standard should be established and standards should be monitored by government to ensure quality of service, the report said, and N.G.Os should expect training and financial/technical support from government, and they all need a standardised data collection system. 

Furthermore, the commissioners want Government to further investigate the rates of violence against fa’afafine, the elderly, and persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

SM
By Sapeer Mayron, 17 September 2018

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