THE Solomon Islands Access to Justice (A2J) Study survey carried out in all provinces in 2018 and 2019 reveals that Gender-based violence disputes exist at a higher rate than reported by the police.
“Gender-based violence disputes exist at a higher rate than reported by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF),” the study that was launched last week revealed.
“…..potentially as high as in 1 in 6 women reported disputes in the last two years.
“Earlier studies indicated a lifetime rate as high as 1 in 4, or 2 in 3,” the study found.
It was also revealed that these cases are rarely taken to the formal justice sector.
The study also stated that the survey did indicate progress in awareness of domestic violence.
It has found that less than 80 percent of both men and women recognised violence against women as unjustified and worthy of punishment another less than 80 percent.
“…and 55 percent indicated that domestic violence is present in their communities.
“These findings suggest both the need and likely community support for strengthening enforcement of the Family Protection Act.”
The study also found that Enforcement of the Family Protect Act (FPA), however, remains low.
It stated that According to JIMS data, only 14 Police Safety Notices (PSNs) have been issued by the police at the time when the survey was conducted.
It further revealed that only 14 Police Safety Notices (PSNs) have been issued by the police.
“The number of PSNs filed with the Magistrates’ Court is purportedly higher, but as the Study was not granted access to JIMS data for the Magistrates, these figures cannot be verified.⁷⁸
“Separately, the Police Prosecutions Department reported 112 prosecutions under the FPA, since its inception, including 12 new cases in 2018 and 57 cases in 2017.
“Reports, from RRRT and other respondents, indicated that very few Interim Protection Orders – only 1, by some accounts; up to 20 by others – have been issued by Authorized Justices.⁷⁹
“The study found that despite substantial training, local court justices have not been able to realize their mandate as authorized justices.
It also stated that the continued sensitization, roll-out and enforcement of the FPA should be strengthened by reconsidering authorized justice qualifications and increasing sensitization across the RSIPF, especially in the provinces.
“The uncertainty and lack of consistent reporting on the FPA is emblematic of wider enforcement issues.
“That the A2J Study consistently received competing figures on PSNs and IPOs without access to a definitive source is a sign of further disarray and a lack of institutional coordination in FPA implementation.
The survey further revealed that the true cost of violence against women in social and economic terms is hard to estimate.
“…. but includes the effects lost esteem, powerlessness, ill-health, loss of productive days and impact on the overall well-being of the woman and the family in her care.
“Given the high rate of violence against women in the Solomon Islands, the cost in terms of lost productive days for victims, out of pocket health expenditures for those having to seek health care in the aftermath and the cost for girls dropping out of school (15 to 18 years old) was assessed to be around 3% of GDP.
“The A2J Survey indicated that a majority of women believe that the most effective way of seeking justice is through the formal justice system, with less trust in the traditional system than for other disputes.
“However, despite this women also demonstrated a reliance on family, the Church and the kastom system to pursue justice.
“The lack of access to the formal system for GBV cases and the cost to the country of violence against women, necessitate greater investment in the extension of formal justice services for violence against women.
“Community perceptions also support this extension, with 86% supporting punishment for a man that used violence against a woman,” the survey revealed.
The study was conducted in 2018-2019 under the Access to Justice Technical Working Group with the leadership of the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs and supported by the Australian Government and UNDP.
The survey was carried out in all provinces with a cross-section of urban, rural and peri-urban communities, ensuring wide representation of all provinces.
Some 2,633 Solomon Islanders (50.3% men and 49.7% women) were surveyed.
The study provides an insight into the justice needs and behaviours of Solomon Islands citizens and provides recommendations for further efforts to enhance access to justice in the Solomon Islands.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN