UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional Office

Gender Equality and Reproductive Rights

Date: 05/02/2014

Pacific Leaders adopted the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration in 2012, further galvanizing political will across the region to promote gender equality, including the elimination of violence against women.

Similarly, the Pacific Platform of Action for the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality 2005 - 2015 guides the work of Pacific countries, reinforcing commitments made through international instruments such as the Millennium Development Goals, the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), and informing national policies.

However, a number of factors continue to fuel discrimination and gender inequality in the Pacific including low levels of political representation at all levels of decision making, restrictive legislative frameworks, and barriers to women's participation in economic development and poor access to healthcare. Gender inequality in turn hinders broad-based and sustainable development.

The most concrete expression of gender inequality is gender-based violence. Lifetime prevalence rates for physical and sexual violence by partner and non-partner among Pacific Island women is high. In Kiribati, 68 per cent of ever-partnered women experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, whereas this was 64 per cent for the Solomon Islands. In Samoa, 46 per cent of women experienced one or more kinds of partner abuse.

The Pacific Violence Against Women national prevalence studies highlight the social, medical and psychological impact of intimate partner and non-partner violence, a violation of women's human rights. Violence against women not only reinforces discrimination and women's disempowerment; for the individual woman it can exacerbate reproductive health problems - including unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

It is harder for women in abusive relationships to negotiate condom use or using contraceptives, leading to unintended pregnancies. Violence during pregnancy is a less-known form of abuse is associated with maternal mortality and morbidity, and with serious repercussions for the infant. It takes a multi-sectoral and intergenerational approach to prevent and respond to violence against women.

In order to effectively address gender inequality and gender-based violence, we need to:

  • Strengthen policy and programme frameworks to address gender inequality and promote women's empowerment. This includes improving human rights reporting and implementation of international agreements such as CRC and CEDAW, including through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR);
  • Establish or strengthen multi-sectoral programming and survivor centered referral mechanisms that promote prevention as well as safe and dignified response to better address violence against women. This includes health systems strengthening to afford greater access and quality of care for women survivors of violence;
  • Address obstacles to access of information and services for comprehensive sexual reproductive health for women and girls with disabilities; and
  • Strengthen preparedness and response to GBV in humanitarian settings in disaster prone countries and regions in the Pacific.
  • Support efforts by triangular leadership alliances with parliamentarians, traditional chiefs/community leaders and faith-based leaders to promote gender equality.

UNFPA provides technical support for data collection, advocacy to promote gender equality and address gender-based violence (GBV) through policy formulation, service delivery and community mobilization.

Siblings hang out outside their fale in a Savai'i village. Samoa. Photo: UNFPA Pacific/Ariela Zibiah.