The first day of the 12th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women concluded with the launch of a new publication – Supplement to Law for Pacific Women: A legal rights handbook – published by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT). The publication, launched by former SPC RRRT Human Rights Advisor, Imrana Jalal, provides an update on how the law affects women in the Pacific today. It updates Ms. Jalal’s 1998 landmark research, published in Law for Pacific Women, which provided the region’s first picture of how legislation in the Pacific affects women. “It is only apt that I launch the supplement to the original publication at this women’s triennial, as Cook Islands was the first country I visited in 1991 when I was undertaking my original research,” Jalal said. Jalal, who currently works as a Senior Social Development Specialist at the Asian Development Bank, said that the original research undertaken for the Law for Pacific Women was a ‘labour of love’ lasting eight years and was developed with the aim of making the law accessible to non-lawyers, such as women’s rights activists, government stakeholders and civil society groups.
Jalal remarked on the small size of the new Supplement publication, saying, “The gains made in gender equality in the legal sector over the last decade have been considerable. This publication is evidence of that. But we must not rest on our laurels, pat ourselves on the back or consider that the goals have been achieved. Legislative frameworks are only the first step and the quest for full gender equality must be reinvigorated and pursued through the resourcing and implementation of gender equality law in order to achieve true substantive equality”. The Supplement reveals that, since 1998, whilst there has been legislative change in the area of violence against women, such as the passing of domestic violence legislation in several Pacific Island countries, some areas of the law that affect women’s daily lives are still out-dated, such as in the areas of employment, citizenship, property rights and family law. The new publication provides information on legislative reform in the areas of sexual offences, domestic violence, legal proceedings and evidence, and human trafficking.
Fekita 'Utoikamanu, SPC Deputy Director-General, in her opening remarks commented, “Sadly, the publication isn’t bigger – since 1998, few laws have progressed substantially in some areas of gender equality. So this publication is both a timely reminder of work ahead for all of us, and also a good baseline for measuring progress over the next few years.” The original publication, Law for Pacific Women: A legal rights handbook (1998) will be made available in e-book form, alongside the Supplement to Law for Pacific Women (2013), thanks to the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement. This publication would not have been made possible without the partnership with the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, and the assistance of key donor partners, the UN Trust Fund to Eliminate VAW, and AusAID. Primary research for this publication was conducted by Mere Pulea, former Fiji Family Court Judge.