Steady flow of women seeking domestic violence aid in Marshall Islands

8:40 am on 15 March 2018
The High Court in the Marshall Islands.

The High Court in the Marshall Islands. Photo: Hilary Hosia

A steady flow of women seeking court relief from domestic violence confirms that spouse abuse continues as a serious problem in the Marshall Islands.

Since the beginning of the year, four women have filed with the High Court, seeking protection from abusive partners. This puts Majuro on track for outpacing last year's record of 16 domestic violence protection orders issued by High Court judges.

The European Union, Australia and the United Nations Women's program announced last week a new, US$22 million project to improve gender equality and address violence against women and girls in the Marshall Islands and nine other Pacific nations.

The domestic violence problem in the Marshall Islands has been documented through numerous surveys. One recent study prepared by Women United Together Marshall Islands, the national women's organisation in the country, reported that over 80 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced some form of violence in their families.

In the four cases filed since January by women seeking the High Court's help to protect them from abusive partners, High Court Chief Justice Carl Ingram and Judge Colin Winchester immediately issued protection orders requiring the assailant to stay 200 feet away from the victim. One of the four women turned her temporary order into a permanent protection order, separating her from her former partner.

The other three said they had reconciled with their male partners a few days after the assaults out of concern for their children, so asked the court to dissolve the restraining order.

Specifics of the protection motions, which were filed in January and February:

The first request of 2018 for a protection order was filed in mid-January. The husband, 50, threatened the wife, 47, with a screwdriver, saying he would take out her eyes, according to documents filed with the court.

The second case involved a victim, 32, who said she was punched and kicked while holding their child by the husband, 36. The victim said the husband threatened to kill her.

The third involved an incident that developed during an argument when the husband, 37, threw a lighter at the victim, 36, hitting her in the head. He was reported to have assaulted her previously, in documents filed in court.

The fourth cased involved a victim, 28, who said her partner, 32, hit her in the head, back and arms with a light fixture during an argument. He then stabbed her hand with a screwdriver, and with a knife threatened to slash her throat.

A total of 28 domestic violence cases were filed during 2016 and 2017. There were 12 in 2016 and 16 last year. These reflect the court's establishment since 2016 of an administrative process that does not require a lawyer for women to file a motion for a temporary protection order. The ease of access to the courts has helped women come forward for domestic violence aid more than ever before in the past three years.

Where to get help

In New Zealand:

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

] Victim Support]: 0800 650 654

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

In Marshall Islands:

Women United Together Marshall Islands (+692-625-5290)