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Research finds Pacific nations hitting high rates of domestic violence against women

10 August 2017

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

High domestic violence rates in the Pacific. Photo/ PRN. 

Studies by American researchers have shown high rates of domestic violence against women in the Pacific.

The International Centre for Advocates against Discrimination has found most Pacific nations have between 40 to 60 per cent of interpersonal violence rates.

Papua New Guinea has the highest with 67.5 per cent, 67 per cent in Kiribati, 66.4 per cent in the Solomon Islands and Fiji with 64 per cent. 

Researcher Erin Thomas says domestic violence against women is a worldwide issue, but statistics in the Pacific are disheartening.

She says most Pacific nations function as a collective and that can become a barrier in trying to combat the issue.

"Families get deeply involved and you have a lot of back ups to say, 'This is not okay, I'm going to step in', but when all of those people think it's okay or think that a wife should be beat by her husband if she does x, y or z then you don't get a lot of those interventions and a lot of it gets hidden away," she says.

Thomas says the patriarchal culture in the Pacific also makes it hard for women to reach out for help.

"There's no incentive to report. You won't be taken seriously, you'll be shamed likely by your family, by your community, by the law in court and your chances of actually getting any physical, emotional or family protection are really low."

She says people should not have to choose between honouring their culture and speaking out against domestic violence.

"Obviously culture should be respected but you do have to differentiate between violence against women and culture," she says. "Those things should not be intertwined but often they are, especially in Pacific Island cultures that are still wrapped in the patriarchy."

Erin Thomas. Photo/ PRN. 

The 20-year-old researcher is in Niue this week for domestic violence research. She says Niue's latest report related to domestic violence was from 2004.

"Niue is not a member state of the UN so there's not much information of discrimination at all from Niue," she says. 

Thomas will be going in with a clean slate, meeting with people and having interviews on The Rock about domestic violence.

"In Niue, most households have someone who works in the government so not many people wanna speak out against the government," she says. "But I will speak out against the government if you need me to."

Thomas is from Washington and says as much as she'd love to have Pacific heritage, there's an advantage to being a palagi researcher.

"It's difficult to not be a Pacific Islander researching anything in the Pacific Islands but I think with this topic it's helpful to be an outsider because the consequences of being involved is not as high," she says. "I'm not going to be shamed because of doing this."

Tags: Fiji, Solomon Islands, domestic violence, Kiribati, International Centre for Advocates Against Discrimination, Papua New Guinea, Erin Thomas,