24 Sep 2009

Tongan government justifies CEDAW rejection

6:40 pm on 24 September 2009

The Tonga Government has dismissed criticism from a women's group after the Legislative Assembly voted not to endorse the UN's Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW.

Last week, the director of the National Centre for Women and Children voiced her disgust at what she called the government's lack of commitment to supporting women's rights.

Don Wiseman has more:

"'Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki says Tonga is one of the few countries not to ratify CEDAW and she says any discrepancies between international obligations and domestic laws can be worked through. But the Government accuses Ms Guttenbeil Likiliki of being mischievous and misleading. The Government says it's strongly for women's human rights, but MPs voted against CEDAW because it would have damaged a unique culture and way of life. It says CEDAW would have meant giving women the same rights of succession to hereditary estates, including the monarchy, and would remove restrictions on women inheriting land. The Government also says CEDAW's requirement that women be given the same right to choose a spouse and decide on family planning could open the way to same sex marriage and abortion. The Government says the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children is advocating change that would have damaging consequences for the people of Tonga."