Justice-sector providers in Solomon Islands are better informed and prepared to address domestic violence through the country’s Family Protection Act that is expected to come into force in the first half of 2016.

This follows consultations staged last week by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, involving lawyers, members of the judiciary, police, social and health workers.

The consultations, led by SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), were supported by the Australian Government and UN Women and examined strategies to strengthen the existing systems to support the prevention and protection measures against domestic violence set out in the Act.

Practical suggestions on coordinated responses, such as strengthening the coordination between the courts and frontline service providers in sharing information to tackle domestic violence cases, emerged as the key players deliberated their roles in the implementation of the Act.

Permanent Secretary of Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, Ethel Sigimanu, said the country’s Family Protection Act reflects the government’s commitment to end violence in the home.

“The Act provides hope for peace in homes, communities and our country. There was much rejoicing when it was passed, and the time has now come for us to again put our minds together and discuss strategies on how we’re going to implement the Act,” Ms Sigimanu said.

The Act defines and criminalizes domestic violence. It prescribes police duties in responding to domestic violence and allows family members – men and women and those who are defined as family members in the Act – to apply for protection orders from the Court.

The Act also recognises that domestic violence is best addressed through a coordinated legal and social response.

For police officer Allan Supa, the consultation last week broadened his understanding of human rights and the new legislation.

“I plan to assist the Community Policing Team, a unit within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, to carry out awareness programmes in the communities.”

A registered nurse with the Honiara City Council Clinic, Esther Nevenga, is excited about the opportunity.

“I will be able to assist clients that are facing domestic violence issues and also refer them to supporting centres like the police, Christian Care Center, Social Welfare and Family Support Centre in Honiara. I will also give more awareness to the communities in and around my clinic catchment on what is domestic violence,” Ms Nevenga said.

SPC’s support to the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act commenced as far back as 2009 with trainings for Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs staff, the placement of a staff within the Ministry to support the initial work on the ground in 2009 to 2012, the set-up of the Violence Against Women (VAW) Legislative Task Force in 2010, the development of drafting instructions based on international best practice standards in VAW legislation in 2010 and 2011, public consultations on the Bill in 2011 to 2012, drafting of the Bill in 2013 to 2014, drafting the implementation plan and briefing the members of parliament about the Bill in the months and weeks before the Bill was finally passed.

SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island member countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.

Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994

Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/

Photo: Chris Palethorpe