Tonga has not yet signed to ratify the United Nations’ (CEDAW)!

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Even though Tonga’s Cabinet has given their blessing  to the CEDAW with the reservation of 5 clauses but Tonga has not signed to ratify the United Nations’ CEDAW.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office it says, “Process has not been completed for ratification of CEDAW but is ongoing.”

This move was supported favourably by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and expressed the need for the process to be completed for ratification.

Tonga’s PMO office states that “the process of ratification is ongoing but as yet the instruments required for ratification is still being prepared and yet to be deposited with the United Nations.Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Fe’ao Vakatā, on behalf of Government, travelled to New York last month to give expression to the United Nations of Tonga’s intent to ratify the convention”.

Further, the Cabinet issued a decision on 6 March 2015 approving CEDAW with reservations in respect to the following provision:

a) Article 2
The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga declares that it is prepared to apply the provisions of Article 2 on the condition that it does not conflict with provisions of the Constitution of Tonga (CAP2) and the Land Act (Cap 132) regarding succession to the throne and nobility.

b) Article 10 (h)
The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga declares that it is prepared to apply the provisions of the Article 10(h) to the extent that it will not allow for abortion in the Kingdom.

c) Article 12 (1)
The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga declares that it is prepared to apply the provisions of Article 12 (1) to the extent that it will not allow for abortion in the Kingdom.

d) Article 14 (2) (g)
The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga declares that it is prepared to apply the provisions of Article 14 (2)(g) on the condition that it does not come into conflict with provisions of the Constitution of Tonga (Cap 2) and the Land Act (Cap 132) regarding the succession to the throne and nobility.

e) Article 16

The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga declares that it is prepared to apply the provisions of Article 16 on condition that it does not conflict with provisions of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act (Cap 42), Criminal Offences Acts (Cap 18) Divorce Act (Cap 29), Maintenance of Deserted Wives Act (Cap 31), Maintenance of Illegitimate Children Act (Cap 30) Guardianship Act 2004, Land Act (Cap 132, Probate and Administration Act (Cap 16) and to the extent that it will not allow for same sex marriages or abortion in the Kingdom.

The Cabinet decision of 6 March 2015also gave time duration for those reservations that “will be unlimited.”

The Government of Tonga emphasizes that ratification was subject to Tongan law, which may restrict the more controversial aspects of the convention, such as the succession to the throne and nobility, abortion and same sex marriage.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) was given the task to work on the Convention while Hon. Lord Vaea was still the Minister (2010 – 2014), with CEO, Lopeti Senituli heading the CEDAW ratification project, who recently revealed they had done work on CEDAW for a period of two years, including public consultation, before the current Government came into office.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Crown Law, was specifically consulted on CEDAW before the expression of intent was communicated to the United Nations.

Consultation may also be carried out with Church leaders, as well as with Parliament before the actual signing for ratification.

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