Dear Nalesoni,

Thank you for sending us the link to CEDAW and other relevant links below.

Kindly note that since you have recently published your views on CEDAW as a lawyer in some of the Tongan newspapers, it is only fair to let you know of our views on same on behalf of our members for your information.

Please kindly note that the PSA Women’s Committee and the Tonga National Women’s Committee (in which we are also a member) had supported and joined the other Women’s groups in Tonga (WCCC, TNWCC, MFF, Langafonua, etc) in advocating for CEDAW since 2008. Parliament had approved for Tonga to ratify CEDAW in the same year.

Our support for the ratification of CEDAW was due to the increasing incidences of abuse (both physically & sexually) of women and young girls at home. Some of these victims were public servants and their performance at work was affected. These increasing incidences confirmed the need for Tonga to take action to reduce these inhumane actions by some men in Tonga.

The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) started the advocacy for CEDAW in 2000 and has translated CEDAW to our Tongan language with the assistance of the UN. You can get a translated copy of CEDAW from the office of the CWL, our office or the offices of the other aforementioned women’s groups.

In 2009, the Cabinet then again recommended to Parliament for Tonga to cancel the ratification of CEDAW. They had claimed that we will not be able to reserve the Clauses in some of the Articles in CEDAW which are related to accession to the throne, registration of land & properties, abortion, and same sex marriages, and others which are inconsistent with our Constitution & legislation. Now, these recommendations have been proved by the current Gov’t to be INCORRECT, i.e. we CAN reserve these Clauses where applicable in CEDAW.

Why the Cabinet decided to misinform Parliament in 2009 is a matter for the former Solicitor General, now Acting Attorney General, and Mr. Lopeti Senituli (PM’s Political Adviser in 2009), now CEO of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to let the current Cabinet and the nation know.

For many years until 2012, Gov’t have turned a blind eye on the fact that the abuses of women & girls are increasing in Tonga despite the proof of increasing legal cases our Courts by using the excuse that Tonga is a Christian country and that women are well respected in Tonga. The latter maybe true but the fact remains that we have serious problems that we need to address before it comes an epidermic!

The former PM Tu’ivakano launched in 2012 a report of the result of a national survey on the abuse of women & girls in Tonga undertaken by the Ma’a Fafine & Famili (MFF). If you read this report, you will not believe the horrific ways in which some women & young girls were abused by their own husbands, fathers, stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers in their own homes. Some girls have turned well with the assistance of the Women Crisis centers in Tonga, lives of others have been ruined for good.

The former PM then directed the Women’s Affairs Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take CEDAW for national consultation with the people. This national consultation was carried out in the last 2-3 years in all the Districts in Tongatapu and the outer islands including the Niuas. There has never been a Convention/Treaty and/or Free Trade Agreement that has undergone such extensive consultation with the people except CEDAW.

Our current problems here in Tonga that needs to be urgently addressed are the abuse of women and girls at home. Tonga’s ratification of CEDAW is our international acknowledgement that we have serious domestic problems in Tonga and our obligation and commitment to address them. Gov’t will now continue to review the relevant legislations, develop infrastructures and/or curriculum to reduce these problems.

The concerns which you have raised in the media in Tonga including those related to the issues which the Cabinet has reserved, Gov’t will continue to ensure that legal issues would be addressed. We also agree that matters that are against our culture & Christian beliefs should be reserved, protected and preserved.

It should also be noted that America as 1 of the 6 countries that have not ratify CEDAW, has legalized abortion and same sex marriage in some of its States. This means CEDAW does not force any country to legalize something that their people do not want to and that the countries’ Constitutions & Laws remain sovereign. To amend our Constitution and legislations it will require the approval of majority of the people through the appropriate mechanisms and processes as set out in their Constitutions and Laws, i.e. our Parliament.

We recommend that we support the ratification of CEDAW approved by Pohiva’s Cabinet on the 6th March 2015 and move on to address our problems to reduce the abuse of women & young girls at home. This is our first and foremost problems to solve and continue to stand together to preserve our culture & Christian beliefs.

We copied herewith the PM, members of Cabinet, Parliament and CEOS for their information

Kind regards,

Secretary General
Public Service Association (PSA)

Tel: +(676) 26-070 (office); 26-080 (direct)