17 Jan 2018

Tonga defends progress on human rights at UN

9:55 am on 17 January 2018

Tonga's Solicitor General Sione Sisifa has outlined Tonga's progress on women's rights at a United Nations meeting in Geneva.

Tongan women protest against the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, arguing it includes counter-culture clauses such as same sex marriage and abortion.

A protest against CEDAW in Tonga. Photo: Broadcomfm Broadcasting / Facebook

Tonga's human rights record is under scrutiny as part of the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process.

Several countries on the council called for Tonga to upscale efforts to ratify the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, known as CEDAW.

Tonga has been preparing to ratify the treaty since 2015 but progress has been slow because of stiff opposition from those fearing it could open the way to same sex marriage and abortion.

Mr Sisifa told the council Tonga was still taking steps to empower women and reduce domestic violence.

"The ratification of CEDAW is an ongoing process and generational change. Generally women and men receive equal pay for equal employment levels, for example within the public service. His Majesty's armed forces have recently reviewed the employment policies to ensure gender equality. Tonga has no discriminatory legislation in relation to participation of women in politics."

Sione Sisifa said Tonga was committed to achieving its human rights obligations.

"Tonga humbly requests member states to understand and appreciate the unique circumstances that it faces when advancing human rights protection, such as resources, strong cultural values , predominant Christian faith and the growth of liberal ideologies," he said.

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