19 May 2010

Tonga call to make domestic violence a crime

1:46 pm on 19 May 2010

An organiser of a national consultation seminar on domestic violence in Tonga says there is a need for legislation that defines it as a crime, and not a private matter.

The police, health and statistics department, crown law office and NGOs are attending the seminar, which is considering strategies to improve legislation on domestic violence.

The police commander, Chris Kelley, says there are laws relating to violence against women, but new legislation such as a domestic violence act or childcare act could address related issues.

Lepolo Taunisila from the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team, which is holding the seminar, says there is currently no legal definition for domestic violence and charges are laid under a criminal act.

"Prosecution are under those sections in the law to do with common assault, bodily harm, and so it's not specifically treated as a crime, the domestic violence in Tonga."

Lepolo Taunisila says making domestic violence a crime would encourage people to take it seriously and report it, rather than treat it as a private affair.