19 Aug 2017

More to be done to tackle gender discrimination in Samoa, says UN

11:38 am on 19 August 2017
UN human rights experts Kamala Chandrakirana (R) Eleonora Zielinska (L)

UN human rights experts Kamala Chandrakirana (R) Eleonora Zielinska (L) Photo: Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

A United Nations human rights panel believes a lot more work needs to be done to tackle deeply rooted gender discrimination in Samoa following a recent visit.

The UN special mission was invited by the Samoa government to look into the current situation of women's human rights in the country.

The mission held discussions and consultations in seven villages on Upolu island which includes Vava'u, Salani, Sapo'e, Utulaelae, Si'uniu, Salesatele and Salelesi.

Kamala Chandrakirana, who heads the UN Working Group on discrimination against women, says the mission welcomes the adoption of various laws that honour Samoa's constitution and international human rights obligations regarding discrimination against women and gender-based violence.

However, she added these laws cannot be fully effective unless women's sexual and reproductive rights are met and they are economically empowered.

She said there is still a huge need for open dialogue on 'taboo' subjects and on the meaning of the 'Samoan way of life' (Fa'aSamoa) and ensuring women's right to equality within the family.

Ms Chandrakirana said that Samoa was only at the beginning of a long journey.

She added that, with a growing youth population, this was the right time to fully honour women's rights by ending gender-based violence, while tackling some of the misunderstandings about human rights, recognizing that family life was at the core of Samoan society.

The experts urged new policies including a state-sponsored social welfare system, full support for women and girls who had suffered sexual or physical violence, and better funding for the civil society groups making an immense contribution despite limited resources.

The Working Group will present a full report including recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in next June.