It’s now illegal for your husband to rape you in Samoa

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Married or not you still can’t be raped.

It’s a little known fact that prior to 2013 it was perfectly acceptable for a man to rape his wife in Samoa. They are after all married, and the Crimes Ordinance of 1962 allowed for the act to occur within the sanctity of marriage. The Act was based on archaic laws during the New Zealand administration.

In 2002, an Assistant Police Commissioner confessed to a  reporter that when a married woman came in to complain about her husband raping her, she was given sixty sene for her bus fare to return home.

“There was simply nothing we could do as Police Officers, because it was the law, that this was acceptable and as far as the books were concerned it’s fine for a man to rape his own wife,” the Assistant Commissioner said in a statement that was later published.

But thankfully, this is now finally being recognized under the new Crimes Act 2013, of Samoa.

The Pacific Islands Law Officers Network states: “The Crimes Act provides that a person may be convicted of sexual violation notwithstanding that the parties involved were married to each other at the (section 49 (4)). This removes the specific exemption of marital rape contained in the Crimes Ordinance 1961.”

This is a signal of progress, of respect, of equal rights, and ultimately of acknowledging that women are still individuals with rights to protect themselves and their bodies irrespective of their marital status.

More information on this change can be found here.

Casual conversations about violence in Paradise

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Conversations.

I’m not sure how exactly it makes it into the conversation but I have found myself shocked at the casual nature in which we as Samoans talk about violence, laugh about it and joke about it. Below I describe two (out of many) incidences where I have been in conversations, like many of you, when violence becomes the topic or insinuations of it become the topic and it is either halfway through or after that I realize how extraordinarly wrong it is!

The thing is, it’s not that we do it intentionally, violence is so much a part of our lives or our upbringing that it is normal to refer to it in conversation and it be ok. In the following conversations I am not naming anyone, because the fact is, we get threatened with violence if any of these people find out about any aspect of these conversations.

Conversational Experience 1:
I had lunch with one of my closest friends from high school yesterday. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, so it was a very good catch up. She works for one of the Government Ministries and I work outside of Government. We both went to high school together and it’s one of those friendships where you just pick up where you left off. Our usual catch up consists of an update of her current partner, analysis of the relationship and then mine (which is boring because my partner doesn’t cheat on me or is getting married without my knowledge, or flying off to Australia to see his fiancee etc.) Luckily for my friend, all that seems to be behind her and she has met a wonderful man. Anyhow after this usual state of relationships discussion, we then move on to discuss the status of classmates.

Working outside of Government means I rarely get to see these former classmates or interact with them, where as my friend works with three and is in contact with many who work in Government. This is how the conversation went.

Friend: “Hey did you hear about T****?”
Me: “No”
Friend: “Remember that story about the Tongan girl that got slashed in the face while she was at the salon?”
Me: “Yeah, why?”
Friend: “It was T****. He was so jealous and suspicious he went over to Matautu where she was in the Salon and she slashed her face with a knife.”

Needless to say I was thoroughly shocked to hear that our former classmate was responsible for publicly slashing his partners face in a fit of rage a couple of months ago. I am so sad for the Tongan wife, I had never met her, but no woman should ever ever ever have to go through that shit. Sadly this same young man dated one of our close friends in high school and in year ten beat her up in front of the hostel during one of their fights.

Conversational Experience 2:

In the same conversation, we started talking about our other classmates. One particular one is married to someone of authority.

Friend: “Ia last time the office went out for drinks the husband came and dragged her by the hair and bashed her up outside the club.”

Me: “Why didn’t anyone stop him?”

Friend: “The boys were afraid of the guy, what he might do to them after.”

Apparently this particular gentleman makes it a habit to beat up his wife in public, and no one interferes because he is in a position of authority. Due to the sensitive nature of this particular case, I can’t go to the details, because it is is not fair on her that this be on social media. But I would hope that whoever reads this, and knows of women who get publicly beaten up, that you step in to stop them. Take a photo and send it to the Police and copy SVSG and any other organization you think can help out the woman and take the man to justice.
Conversational Experience 3:
I was in Fiji for a meeting when I met up with my cousin for a drink at the hotel I was staying in. There was a Samoan Government worker who was at the bar, he was in mid-forties, who came over and joined us upon hearing that we were speaking the language. He was there for a workshop and had been chain smoking on the verandah earlier when I saw him. We talked about his workshop, his work history, mine, my cousins, then we got onto the subject of relationships. He said he was currently a young woman in Samoa, who has a good job and no the ‘jealous-type.’ I asked if her parents were ok with it, and he said they don’t have choice. Then we got talking about traditional dating methods and this is how it went.

Me: “Isn’t it nice that we are now in a day and age where you can actually date someone out in the open.”
Him: “Yeah, frankly I don’t think I have the strength to run if I had to do the moe-kolo approach.”
We all laughed at this.
Me: “I am always amused at that, why men in the villages did it, knowing full well they would be caught, and they don’t even make it to their lover in time before the father or the brother gets them.”
Him: “Well the trick is to make it really quiet, and once you get there, you hold her mouth and her neck and if she makes one peep, then just hit her with the kao kaigamu.”
Me: “Well hopefully before you get there her father pulls his gun on your head.”

In this one conversation he joked about rape and violence. I know that’s how we converse when we are drinking or joking around in social circles, and I have sat in enough drink ups to hear this, but it does not make it ok. In fact I myself didn’t think there was anything wrong with these ‘theoretical’ jokes about violence until about five years ago when I took some papers in gender and trauma. IT’S NOT OK to joke about it. When you are in your next conversation, listen to what is being said and you will realize that sometimes some jokes are violent in nature.

Share with us some of these conversations, so that we can all have a better idea about this issue.

Domestic violence and the riddle of wives who stand by the men who abuse them

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Survivors of domestic violence have felt the need to defend abusive partners like Janay Rice (right) [Independent.co.uk]

By Pavan Amara

It was just a few weeks after getting married that Sonia’s husband perforated her ear drum. A few months later, he punched her father in the face during an argument about the television remote – and went on to beat her time and time again. Yet their marriage lasted for 12 years. Sonia told her family he was “just a macho man” and rationalised his actions by telling herself that “no one had taught him to behave better, I thought that was my job”.

Many people would be surprised at her sentiments and how she could continue in the relationship. But other survivors of domestic violence who like Sonia have felt the need to defend abusive partners will relate to Janay Rice.

Footage came to light showing Ms Rice being knocked unconscious in a lift in February by her fiancé, former American football star Ray Rice. This week the National Football League decided to suspend him. But just hours after their announcement, Ms Rice stood up for her husband – they had since married, a day after he was indicted for assaulting her – saying online that the NFL took action only to boost ratings.

“[I feel] like I am mourning the death of my closest friend,” she wrote. “To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his a** off for his whole life is just horrific.”

Sonia can sympathise. “Looking back, I can see our relationship dynamic was more mother-child than husband-wife,” she says. “I had this unconditional love for him.” The 48-year-old was married to her husband for 12 years, before divorcing him and changing her name three years ago – after he strangled her in front of their two children and left her for dead.

“When we first met he told me about how badly his parents had treated him. He induced so much sympathy that all I could see was this broken little boy. He’d beat me and his childhood was the excuse, he’d cry about how his father beat him. When people criticized him I’d stick up for him like you would for a little kid.”

According to the national domestic violence charity Refuge, on average a female domestic violence victim is assaulted 35 times before her first call to police. Karen Ingala Smith, the chief executive of the domestic violence support charity NIA Ending Violence, says “the switch” that perpetrators make between being “abusive and vulnerable” is what keeps women in relationships for so long.

“There are so many threats of ‘If you leave I’ll kill you’, ‘I’ll take the kids’, ‘I’ll report you to social services’, ‘You’ll have no money’. She starts to believe all that,” Ms Smith says of the victims. “Coming up with reasons for the perpetrator’s behaviour can give the victim some mental control of the situation, even when physically they feel they have none.”

Amy, 32, began a nine-year relationship when she was 21. She says her boyfriend “completely stamped out her voice”, to the point where she couldn’t decide what groceries to buy after leaving him.

“His voice became my voice, even in my own head I heard his choices,” she says. “I couldn’t wear nail varnish, he decided my hair colour would be brown not blonde, he chose my clothes. He banned me from wearing jumpers, even in the winter. Hitting me was just the physical stuff. I had no thoughts in the end, my own thinking had been ground out of me. So when I justified him to friends it was his voice in my mouth again.”

She also made excuses for his violence to avoid being labelled “a bad mum keeping my children with a bad dad”.

“In the early days, I thought if I could normalise his behaviour it would normalise our family again, and my children wouldn’t be labelled as coming from a dysfunctional family. He stopped me working, but I said he was an assertive ‘man of the house’ rather than a bully, because male aggression is acceptable when it’s seen as being a good provider.”

The charity Solace Women’s Aid published research in June showing over 90 per cent of women who flee a violent partner experience abuse after leaving. Professor Liz Kelly, director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, who helped conduct the research, says the threat of post-relationship violence, cuts to legal aid and to funding for domestic violence refuges all keep women in dangerous relationships. “Society should not be asking: ‘Why does she stay?’ It should be ‘Why does he do that?’ and ‘Why does she have nowhere to go?’.”

[This story was published by http://www.indepenent.co.uk. It can be found here]