High hopes for a domestic violence-free Samoa

A New Zealand-based commissioner on Samoa’s Commission of Inquiry on Domestic Violence says that country’s vision for a non-violent society heartens her.

Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop said people had been saying old family values of fa’asamoa have weakened and it’s now time to go back to traditions like evening family prayers.

She said the Commission would be recommending an agency to disseminate uniform messages on family violence.

Tagaloatele said it was also felt the public health system should be the agency to deal with domestic violence.

Parents needed to engage with their children and stop normalising family violence. Families also needed to feel less pressured by church and fa’alavelave or big family events.

She said men and women had different knowledge and strengths but it did not mean one gender had control over the other.

Public presentations to the Commission have revealed that domestic violence is a real problem and on the rise.

Many presentations indicated that domestic violence has become normalised in Samoan society.

The Samoa Observer reported that the country’s attorney general, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, told the Commission that while there are “strong legislation and protective laws” in place, the question is whether they are being implemented.

He spoke of the No Drop Policy which was introduced in 2013, but said the implementation of such protective laws depends on social attitudes.

Tagaloatele taught at the University of the South Pacific Alafua School of Agriculture in Samoa for over 15 years.

She has held posts with UNDP, UNIFEM and UNESCO and worked with national planning offices and NGOs in most Pacific countries before her return to New Zealand in 2006.

In 2009 she became inaugural Professor of Pacific Studies at the Auckland University of Technology and has been teaching, researching and publishing on Pacific development issues.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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