SUVA, Fiji—Child protection and welfare legislation passed by the Nauru Parliament will provide a family and community-based safety net for vulnerable children in need of care, and put in place comprehensive measures to protect children from all forms of violence, neglect and exploitation.
The Pacific Community (SPC) has welcomed the passage of Nauru’s Child Protection and Welfare Act this month and is now focused on supporting the introduction of the new law.
UNICEF Pacific research in 2014, shows that as many as 8 out of 10 children throughout the Pacific region experience violence or abuse at some point in their life, at home, school or in their community.
As in the rest of the world, children in the Pacific need protection from sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, child trafficking, child labour and sexual abuse, with the prevalence of sexual abuse in the region ranging from 11-22 percent for girls and 3-16.5 percent for boys, according to UNICEF.
Children also face new forms of violence, including cyber-bullying through Internet and mobile phones. Suicides of young people, especially young men, are also on the rise.
While all Pacific Island countries have ratified the international Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Nauru becomes one of only four countries to have domesticated this convention by enacting child protection laws, along with Fiji, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea.
“More Pacific Island nations are taking urgent action to protect children and create a safe and secure environment where children can thrive, and SPC congratulates Nauru on the bold action it is taking,” RRRT Director, Mark Atterton, said.
“Legislation is a fundamental step in creating an enabling and protective environment, along with community attitudes, cultural and normative change,” he said.
In this regard, SPC, through RRRT, will continue to work with the Nauru Government, and with UNICEF Pacific who assisted with drafting the Act, to help ensure the new legislation is fully implemented and to shift community attitudes towards children’s rights.
On welcoming the new legislation, UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr. Karen Allen, noted that, “this Act brings Nauru into alignment with many international standards, including raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls.”
“In particular, we welcome the mandatory reporting of any sexual abuse or exploitation of a child by persons in authority in a school, church or other religious institution, health facility, prison, detention or corrections facility, or any other place where children are supervised or cared. This sends a strong signal that sexual abuse or exploitation will not be tolerated—and supports child victims to safely report abuse and seek help,” Allen said.
RRRT has been working with the national Child Protection Unit to develop a manual and reporting procedures for police responses to child abuse cases.
RRRT Country Focal Officer in Nauru, Stella Duburiya, has also been supporting the Child Protection Unit to review job descriptions for new staff to be recruited into unit.
Additionally, in March this year RRRT delivered to Nauru a draft Family Protection Bill, which SPC was request to draft, as part of the Nauru Government’s suite of child and family protection measures.
Due to go through a consultation period in the coming months, the Family Protection Bill makes domestic violence a crime and provides women with access to Emergency, Temporary and Permanent Protection Orders against perpetrators of violence. (PR)