New centre will offer free legal advice to survivors of domestic violence

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Survivors of domestic violence in Tonga will have access to free legal advice and assistance.

According to a survey by the University of the South Pacific and the Ma’a Fafine moe Famili centre, 77 percent of women in Tonga have been physically or sexually abused.

The free legal advice is part of a new project organised by the Pacific Community’s Regional
Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and Tonga’s Ministry of Justice.

The project will be launched at the Ministry of Justice in Fasi-moe- afi on December 8.
International Human Rights Day falls on December 10.

A community legal advice centre is expected to be opened in Nuku’alofa in the first quarter
of next year.

The Centre will help survivors of domestic violence to apply for protection orders under the
Family Protection Act.

Tonga’s national gender and development policy (2014-2018) recognises that domestic
violence is a “rampant problem, largely underreported, which affects our family, our society
and our economy.”

Read more:

Level of violence against women increases beyond critical point, says centre director

Tonga adopted the Family Protection Act (FPA) in 2013 which provides the legal framework
for the protection of survivors of domestic violence.

“One of the challenges in the implementation of the Act is the lack of free legal advice for
survivors of domestic violence, and a lack of legal literacy around the application of
protection orders,” a Justice Ministry spokesman said.

“Accessing services in Tongatapu is costly and not practical especially when there is a need
for urgent assistance, as is usually the case in matters involving domestic violence.”

There were few services for survivors in the outer islands.

The spokesman said services available in the outer islands, such as police stations, offer
limited options for survivors as there were no permanent judges in the outer island courts,
except for the Vava’u Magistrate’s Court.

He said staff at the centre would be able to provide assistance over the phone to women
who may not be in Nuku’alofa.

Staff at the centre would also travel to the outer islands with the regular court circuit in
order to provide assistance in person.

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