United Nations Human Rights Council

Universal Periodic Review: Samoa

Executive Summary

Drawing on ICAAD’s research, this submission highlights issues of structural discrimination that impact women and girls in Samoa. The research examines Samoa’s compliance with its international human rights obligations on the issue of violence against women and girls.

Structural Discrimination

Structural discrimination occurs when laws, policies, and societal/cultural norms generate outcomes for certain groups because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Certain practices in a region or nation may appear to be facially neutral, but in practice, impose significant barriers that disadvantage certain groups in achieving substantial equality. This perpetuates barriers of social exclusion and prevents marginalized groups from fully integrating into the social, economic, and cultural fabric of society.

Violence Against Women and Girls

  1. Systematic Discrimination:
    1. Violence against women is “endemic and pervasive” in Samoa.[i]4% of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 years who have entered into a relationship experienced physical and/or emotional and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. [ii] Attitudes in Samoan society reflect the depth of the problem: about half of men believe that beating a woman is sometimes justified and 70% of women believe that husbands sometimes have good reason to beat their wives.[iii] According to a 2006 “Samoa Family Health and Safety Study” by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the UNFPA found that 87.7% of women did not seek help for physical abuse, and 72.5% of those did not seek help because they believed physical abuse was normal or not serious.[iv]
    2. Violence against women and girls is also prevalent outside the context of intimate partner violence: one survey reported that 64 percent of female respondents experienced some form of abuse by someone other than their partner. [v]
    3. Rape is underreported because of social attitudes that discourage such reporting. [vi] Spousal rape is not criminalized. [vii]
    4. While the government passed the Family Safety Act, focused on protection orders, the government has yet to enact specific “laws to enforce protection of women from all forms of violence and abuse.”[viii] Cases of domestic violence are covered under the law against common assault.[ix] Law enforcement agencies are reluctant to arrest perpetrators of domestic violence in close-knit communities. [x]

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