PILON Sexual and Gender Based Violence WorkshopWebsite Administrator
25 – 27 March Apia, Samoa
In March 2019, the PILON Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Working Group held a workshop on providing Quality Evidence without Re-Victimisation: Promoting Special Measures for Vulnerable SGBV Complainants.
The Attorney General’s Office of Samoa hosted the workshop, with funding from the Australian Government and the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community. It brought together Honourable members of the judiciary from across the Pacific, including NZ and Australia, senior lawyers and police from 14 Pacific Island countries. The Pacific island countries that participated are Fiji, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Tonga, together with Australia and New Zealand.
SGBV is a significant problem across the Pacific region. The Prime Minister of Samoa, Mr Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who opened the workshop, noted that domestic physical assaults can sometime be the tip of the iceberg, with other serious crimes committed against persons in vulnerable domestic situations, including our young children. He reinforced to delegates that the Samoan Government takes the fight against domestic violence very seriously. The costs of sexual and gender based violence to Pacific communities, including Samoa, are high and place enormous burdens on health, law and justice and other Government systems. The costs of SGBV, which limit full participation by women and girls in social, political and economic life holds back the development of Pacific Island countries.
In keeping with the commitment by Pacific Leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009 and the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration in 2012, PILON member countries have recognised that contributing to the eradication of SGBV through effective law and justice responses continues to be one of its key strategic priorities.
Pacific leaders, including Tuilaepa, have acknowledged the high rates of SGBV in Samoa and across the Pacific region and have committed to eradicating SGBV and ensuring all individuals have equal protection of the law and equal access to justice.
Implementation of the principles is intended to minimise distress experienced by vulnerable witnesses and maximise the ability of these witnesses to give reliable and truthful evidence in SGBV court proceedings. In doing so, the Principles seek to ensure that the criminal process does no further harm to the person and that their safety is prioritised while ensuring a fair trial for the accused. Maximising the ability of vulnerable witnesses to provide their best evidence and preventing their re-traumatization may also improve trust in the criminal court process, thereby increasing the likelihood of reporting of SGBV offences.
The PILON SGBV working group will continue to support PILON members on implementation of the General Principles and are currently working on model provisions to encourage the enshrining of some of these practices in legislation.
The PILON Secretariat would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions made to the Conference by all distinguished speakers, delegates and others that made this event possible, in particular the staff from the Pacific Community’s RRRT whose support for this workshop was greatly appreciated.