Human rights under scrutiny in the Marshalls
Human rights in the Marshall Islands is under the spotlight as it heads into a UN review after a critical US State report.
Human rights in the Marshall Islands is under the spotlight as it heads into a UN review which follows a critical US State report.
The Marshalls will undergo its 2nd Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, in Geneva on May 11.
Koro Vaka'uta reports.
The Marshalls were last reviewed by the UN in 2010 and were given 38 recommendations to work on around various rights treaties and concerns.
The Marshalls have one of the lowest human rights treaty ratification records in the region.
The Acting Regional Head of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Catherine Phuong, says there are expectations for any UPR.
"When the government accepts recommendations before the Human Rights Council, it means that they commit themselves in front of the international community to implement these recommendations so this will very much be the focus of the second review. The government is expected to have implemented these recommendations or at least made progress."
The review comes a few weeks after the US report cited issues with prison conditions, corruption and domestic violence.
The Director of Women United Together in the Marshall Islands says she is not surprised by the report describing levels of domestic violence as chronic.
Kathryn Relang says the last national study showed just under 70% of women surveyed had experienced violence at some point in their lives.
She says over the past 15 years the number of women affected has remained high.
"Just the percentage of life time physical partner violence was significantly high at about 48% and as far as these incidences being reported by these women, about 90% of them never reported to anybody the experience that they were going through."
Ms Relang says there is a need to build the capacity of first responders to deal with domestic violence.
The government says a lack of resources is hindering the development of human rights.
The secretary of foreign affairs, Bruce Kijiner, says they have worked hard to improve the situation, including working towards various women and children's rights agreements and proposing a new prison.
However he says their efforts are limited without assistance.
"We have the political will to advance these issues forward. It's just a matter of getting the resources and getting support from our friends in the international community. We are getting some positive responses but I will consider it something achievable if I see it."
But Ms Relang says her organisation has found there are resources out there.
"We've been able to tap into other sources to get a lot of the women's issues out there. I think it is just a matter of our own capacity and willingness to really take on these issues. Women's issues, in the last how many years, have really not been at the top of the list of priorities for our government."
Mr Kijiner says the government has come a long way since the 2010 review, citing work around the conventions for the rights of the child and against discrimination of women.
Catherine Phuong agrees that work has been done but still has concerns, including the low penalties for domestic violence offenders.
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