Tonga

Population size: 

105,706 [1]

Number of people experiencing domestic abuse each year:

Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months against women= 19% [2]

Estimates suggest that between 5000-10,000 women in Tonga are survivors of domestic abuse each year which translates to between 31-62.

May 2020, the Police Commissioner stated that on average 23 women per month reported an incident of physical and sexual assault to the police. The majority of these victims were assaulted in the domestic environment. These statistics do not include psychological or emotional abuse. [3]

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of domestic abuse to the economy each year:

WHO calculated the annual cost of violence against women to Tonga’s economy is TOP$18.3 million.

Estimated % change due to COVID-19:

Women’s crisis centres recorded a 54 per cent increase in the number of cases coming in during that period. It is expected that as lockdown is eased more cases will become apparent. [4]


Current law and policy:

Tonga adopted the Family Protection Act in 2013, which provided greater protection to victims of Domestic Violence, introduced Protection Orders, and clarified the duties of the police. The Act’s implementation has been supported through the adoption of zero-tolerance policy approaches and the establishment of dedicated DOMESTIC VIOLENCE legal aid centres. Progress continues to be slowed however by, among other factors, the influence of social mores regarding traditional gender and family roles.

Tonga passed the Family Protection Act in 2013. The purpose of the Act was to provide greater protection from Domestic Violence (‘DOMESTIC VIOLENCE’), introduce protection orders, clarify the duties of the police, and promote the health, safety and well-being of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE victims.[1] DOMESTIC VIOLENCE is defined as any physical sexual or mental abuse that occurs within a domestic or family setting - all persons, including children, who experience or witness DOMESTIC VIOLENCE can seek protection under the Act.[5]

Additionally, Tonga Police adopted a zero tolerance ‘No Drop’ policy in 2010 in relation to all physical assaults and other serious crimes committed as a result of domestic disputes. Tonga police therefore aim to actively pursue all charges where an assault or serious crime has been committed and to ensure complaints progress to a judicial hearing. [6]

It has been reported as well that Tonga will be the first country in the Pacific to have a legal aid centre specifically dedicated to helping people who are survivors of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - the Family Protection Legal Aid Centre, established by the Tongan Ministry of Justice with support from regional and international partners, opened in March 2018. [7]


Despite progress that has been made, Tonga’s then police minister, Mateni Tapueluel, publicly expressed strong opposition in 2019 to the Family Protection Act on the basis that it contravened Tongan culture. He also argued that the Act was contributing to drug importation because parents were afraid to discipline their children under the Act. [8]

It noted that it is difficult to determine domestic abuse from ‘common assaults’ as they are not separate offences or crimes. [9]


 

Sources


[1] Worldometer, “Tonga Population (Live)”, (worldometers.info)

[2] UN Women, “Global Database on Violence Against Women – Tonga”, (evaw-global-database.unwomen.org)

[3] https://mfftonga.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/tonga-vaw-report-final-2012.pdf

[4] https://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/stories/2020/06/across-the-pacific-region-crisis-centres-respond-to-increased-cases-of-violence

[5] Family Protection Act – 2013 https://evaw-global-database.unwomen.org/en/countries/oceania/tonga/2013/family-protection-act ;

Tonga Family Protection Legal Aid Centre opens on 12 March 2018 https://www.spc.int/updates/news/media-release/2018/03/tonga-family-protection-legal-aid-centre-opens-on-12-march-2018

[6] Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review* Tonga - 2013, with

background to the ‘No-Drop’ Policy, Study into Domestic Violence, and information

regarding the Family Protection Bill 2012

[7] Tonga Family Protection Legal Aid Centre opens on 12 March 2018

[8] Tonga - further background detail on VAWG, women’s economic empowerment, health and other associated details in Tonga

[9] https://mfftonga.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/tonga-vaw-report-final-2012.pdf