05th June, 2013
Supporters of a bill to protect families in Tonga are confident it will soon be passed by lawmakers.
The Tonga Family Protection Bill is expected to be discussed in this month’s session of parliament.
Beverley Tse has more:
The bill was introduced two years ago with the aim of combatting domestic violence and protecting all members of a household. The co-ordinator of the non-government organisation Ma’a Fafine Moe Famili, Betty Blake, says the bill has been debated in a series of workshops by a taskforce involving NGOs, church leaders and MPs. She says there is much support for the bill but there may be opposition from men – the traditional breadwinners – to a provision allowing women to apply for a protection order if they are denied money to feed their family.
“This bill is now coming in to protect income for the whole family, or even the property for the whole family. It may become something that men may oppose to that. Because there has not been domestic violence legislation before and men would use the money in whatever way they wish to do.”
The Pastor of Tonga Gospel Fellowship in Halaleva says some people will need to change their mindset in order to accept the bill. Naisa Ngalu says more education is also needed to teach people that domestic violence is unacceptable.
“Education and also church should do their part. They should, you know, explain that violating the rights of other persons, regardless if it’s your wife or children, who is less powerful than you, is wrong.”
The Deputy Director of the Women’s Affairs Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Polotu Fakafanua-Paunga says there has a positive response from those involved in discussions on the bill.
“To start with I would say that it’s a really good bill because it had gone through the law reform committee meeting and there has been a lot of positive feedback from them. But then you know, having said that, there would also be the conservation for further training and capacity building of institutions to make sure that it works.”
She says there have been fatalities from domestic violence and the bill is required to better protect victims.
“I think it adds… They call it ’on the spot’… The police would have the power to issue on the spot… to protect the victim. For example, they can remove the perpetrator away from the house, say for about 48 hours.”
Polotu Fakafanua-Paunga says she is confident the Family Protection Bill will be passed before the end of the year.