"As societies build walls of separation between communities,
ICAAD works to remove each brick to illuminate our common humanity"

Handbook puts gender bias on the spot

Lawyers and local advocacy organisations will gain access to an important tool needed to identify gender bias within legal decisions made in Pacific Island Countries (PICs).

The International Centre for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) released a handbook detailing its methodology in examining sentencing patterns with a view to uncover Gender Based Violence (GBV) trends over a 20-year period.

This work is part of ICAAD’s TrackGBV initiative to promote a data-driven methodology within leading governmental and civil society organizations throughout the Pacific Island region by 2021.

The handbook is being released today, on Human Rights Day, and follows the completion of a successful pilot initiative – also part of TrackGBV – that led to legislative and judicial reform in PICs.

The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Sentencing Handbook is produced in partnership with global law firm Clifford Chance. It is primarily aimed at assisting lawyers and local advocacy organizations to analyse case law, while putting a spotlight on societal and community-level factors that both contribute to GBV and shape judicial attitudes, particularly when it comes to sentencing and its impact on accountability.

Commenting on the Handbook, Sam Harris, Associate at Clifford Chance stated that “it is crucial that any analysis tackling such a pervasive and deep rooted issue as GBV has a considered and robust methodology.”

“We are confident that the Handbook provides a firm foundation for analysing GBV cases, as well as providing important context to the barriers in seeking redress for victims/survivors of GBV in PICs,” said Harris.

ICAAD team meets with Dr. Teleiai Lalotoa Mulitalo, Chief Executive Officer of the Law Reform Commission Samoa

ICAAD Co-Founder, Hansdeep Singh said while he was glad to see progress being made, preventable barriers continued to persist.

“When women and girls make the difficult decision to report, the justice system should not minimize their courageous act by using stereotypes, customary practices, victim blaming, or issuing inadequate sentences that do not reflect the gravity of the crime. However, it is important to recognize that judiciaries in the region, especially in Fiji, have taken concrete measures to reducing bias and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the courts,” he said.

Prior to its official release, ICAAD introduced the Handbook to over 30 stakeholders in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, including the Chief Justices of Tonga and Samoa and leading women’s rights organizations including Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Tonga Women & Childrens Crisis Centre, and Samoa Victim Support Group.

The Handbook’s release coincides with Human Rights Day and marks the culmination of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Chief Justice Owen Paulsen of Tonga with the ICAAD team

Nalini Singh, Executive Director; Artika Singh; and Menka Goundan of Fiji Women’s Rights Movement with Hansdeep Singh, Co-Founder, ICAAD

Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu of Samoa with Hansdeep Singh, Jaspreet Singh, and Erin Thomas of ICAAD

Solicitor General Sione Finau Sisifa and lawyer ‘Akanesi E Katoa of Tonga
with the ICAAD team

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Pacific Islands: Handbook on Judicial Sentencing Practices

Want to learn about the societal and community-level factors that contribute to domestic violence, sexual offences, and shape judicial attitudes?

Read the Report!


This Civil Rights and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’d like to challenge you to reflect on how fear may have influenced your opinions, especially of others, and to take a step towards the courage to overcome those fears. Why the focus on fear you might ask?

Famed marketer and author Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” outlines six typical manipulations used in sales and marketing, one of which is the use of fear. On fear, Sinek says, “When fear is being employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures.”

In the current political atmosphere, in the U.S. and around the globe, fear is often used by politicians and campaigners to polarize debates and to demonize marginalized communities, using them as scapegoats for the real economic, social, and political challenges that societies face.

Martin Luther King, Jr. understood how important fear is, so much so that he gave a sermon on it named “Antidotes for Fear.” It’s worth reading in its entirety, especially because it recognizes the importance, necessity, and creativity of fear (kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/draft-chapter-xiv-mastery-fear-or-antidotes-fear). However, particularly pertinent section was highlighted by King’s wife Coretta Scott King in her book “My life with Martin Luther King, Jr”:

“First Martin spoke of the many kinds of fear that troubled men and women in this period of change and "calamitous uncertainty"— fear of illness or economic disaster, fear of personal inadequacy in our highly competitive society. More terrible was the fear of death, even racial annihilation, in this atomic age, when the whole world teetered on "a balance of terror . . . fearful lest some diplomatic faux pas ignite a frightful holocaust."

"Some fears are normal and necessary," he said, like the fear of snakes in a jungle, but when they become neurotic and unchecked, they paralyze the will and reduce a man to apathy or despair. He quoted Emerson, who wrote, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear."

How, then, to overcome fear? First, Martin said, "We must un-flinchingly face our fears . . . this confrontation will, to some measure, grant us power. . . . "Second, we can master fear through one of the supreme virtues known to man— courage . . . courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”"

MLK Coretta Scott King Simon Sinek
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