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Cook Islands to tackle family violence with new Family Law Bill

Picture by Tupopongi Marsters, Gender & Development Division, Ministry of Internal Affairs

 

In 2010,the 11th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women set important goals for Pacific Island countries and territories to support and strengthen legal systems to prosecute and punish perpetrators of violence against women.

Cook Islands has started a process for improving the legal protection for women who are the victims of violence, including domestic violence, by revising of the Crimes Act, and developing a new Family Law Bill, to tackle violence within the family.

The Family Law Bill will establish protection orders, prioritise training for law enforcement and child protection services, and improve the availability of services to victims of domestic violence.

The Cooks Islands Family Health and Safety Study of 2014 revealed that one in every three Cook Islands women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lives. It also showed that, for more than half of the women who had been the victims of physical partner violence, their children had witnessed the violence, which highlights the need for greater protection of both women and children from family violence. These laws aim to address this important need.

A Family Law Bill Special Select Committee, made up of six members of parliament, was established to hold consultations across the country about the proposed new Family Law Bill. The Select Committee is also calling for public submissions from anyone who wishes to suggest improvements the Bill before it becomes law.

“Consultations and public submissions are important opportunities for Cook Islanders to share their views and help shape this important piece of legislation. I hope many will seize it!” said Ms. Ruth Pokura, Director of the Gender and Development Division at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and SPC who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declarationcalls to enact and implement legislation regarding sexual and gender based violence to protect women from violence and impose appropriate penalties for perpetrators. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progressnoted Cook Islands progress in this area:-.a comprehensive study on family and sexual based violence was launched in 2014, providing the first ever in-depth study on family violence. A formal referral mechanism to support services for victims involving the police, health, justice system and the Child and Family Unit has been developed and is currently being trialed. Increased funding allocated to NGOs to provide legal services for women seeking protection from domestic violence. Family Law Bill training and consultations underway which is led by Parliamentary Select Committee. Advocacy and awareness programs have contributed to an increase in reported cases of domestic violence.

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