Family Protection Law and Provision of Essential Services
Family Protection Law and Provision of Essential Services
A study visit to the Solomon Islands to learn from its SAFENET referral system

Challenges

Pohnpei State, in the Federated States of Micronesia, passed a Domestic Violence Act in 2017. To support the new law’s implementation, Pohnpei State sought to establish a referral mechanism for victims of gender-based violence. At the time, victims did not feel safe reaching out to get the necessary help and services. More broadly, the government wanted to ensure greater access for women and girls who experienced gender-based violence to a coordinated set of essential and quality multi-sectoral services. Another need was to put in place coordination mechanisms with stakeholders to adequately address gender-based violence and domestic violence in the state.

Specific challenges to address include:

  • Victims could become overwhelmed by the process of accessing the different available services.
  • Police officers do not always know or follow standard procedures, such as to not alert perpetrators of the whereabouts of their partners who are being safeguarded for safety purposes.
  • Public solicitors' offices are often not properly resourced to handle cases, and being an office for everyone, at times they may provide legal support for both victims and perpetrators.
  • Hospital nurses feel intimidated by questions raised during court cases when they are providing clinical evidence. Due to the severity of some cases, nurses who are often the first respondents at the hospitals claimed that they too need to take care of themselves otherwise the work will consume them.
  • Counsellingservicesarenecessarytohelpvictimswithemotionaltrauma.
  • When a backlog of domestic violence court cases exists, it is difficult for victims who must wait long periods without their partner/perpetrator being reprimanded.
  • Awarenessraisingisanongoingchallenge.
  • Referral mechanisms need to cover all geographical areas, including remote ones

Towards a Solution

Pohnpei State decided to undertake a week-long study visit to the Solomon Islands to learn from that country’s SAFENET Referral System and from the government ministries and service providers (such as the police, ministry of women and the Attorney General’s office) implementing the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act of 2014. The study delegation was composed of representatives from the Federated States of Micronesia department of health and social affairs and the Pohnpei State government. The group wanted to understand how Solomon Island’s referral system catered to the needs of victims in practical ways and how to implement a victim survivor’s approach.

The Solomon Islands passed its Family Protection Act in 2014, but it took two years to start implementing it, as actions were taken to first ensure that all relevant parties, e.g. justice, police, health, etc., understood and had been trained on their roles under the Act. Thus, a coordinated system of support from a variety of agencies, including non-governmental and faith-based organizations, was established to respond to victims of domestic through what is now referred to as the SafeNet and Referral Pathway.

The Federated States of Micronesia study team visited with the head of the key ministries responsible for implementing the Act, which included the Ministries of Women, Children and Family Affairs, Justice, Health and Social Welfare, Public Safety and the Public Solicitors Office, along with civil society and faith-based organizations, such as Seif Place, Christian Care Center and the Family Support Center. The study group observed in person the clear line of support provided for victims of domestic violence across the sectors. Group meetings were held during the mission at which each of the organizations shared their area of work related to Safenet, followed by onsite visits to review the operations of the organizations. Stakeholders communicated their challenges and discussed what they would do differently and what they are currently doing to address their issues and challenges.

  • The challenges that stakeholders in the Solomon Islands identified were:
  • The government still needs to put in place case managers for both women and men victims of domestic violence.
  • There is a need for better collaboration between entities, particularly among the service providers handling gender-based violence cases.
  • SOPs and guidelines are required for addressing cases and attending to victims.
  • The general public needs to be educated on the existence of gender-based violence laws and how the government is supposed to implement them.
  • Gender-based violence sensitization training is needed for health workers, public safety workers and first responders.
  • Properrulesandregulations(MOUsandSOPs)need to be put in place for service providers so that people can feel safe to go to them and to ensure that victims receive appropriate services.

The Federated States of Micronesia and Pohnpei State did not have in place all of the entities and programmes seen in the Solomon Islands. However, it was decided that they would put in place a system that was practical for, and that would serve the context of, their own situations.

In line with SDG target 5.2 and Samoa Pathway paragraph 76-77 on gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Pohnpei State government indeed developed a response and referral pathway. The referral mechanism aims to enable all first responders to collaborate and provide good and appropriate services for victims of gender-based violence and to refer them to other service providers, as needed, in a safe and secure manner.

Contact Information

Lululeen Santos Women’s Interest Coordinator Pohnpei State Social Services Division

Countries involved

Micronesia (Federated States of), Solomon Islands

Supported by

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Implementing Entities

Pohnpei Women Interest Office, Department of Health and Social Affairs

Project Status

On-going

Project Period

2018

Primary SD

05 - Gender Equality

Secondary SDGs

16 - Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

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