Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The law recognizes spousal rape. The incidence of rape appeared to be infrequent, although there were no reliable statistics. Police investigate reported rape cases, which are then prosecuted under the law. As of May police reported six rape cases. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often report a higher incidence of rape than police reports. As of June the Women and Children Crisis Center reported eight rape cases.
The Family Protection Act, which came into force in July, makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to 12 months in prison, a fine of 2,000 pa’anga ($1,171), or both. Repeat offenders face up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of 10,000 pa’anga ($5,853). The act provides for protection from domestic violence, introduces protection orders, clarifies the duties of police, and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of domestic violence victims. As of August police issued 16 protection orders under the act.
The police domestic violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault--once filed, domestic violence cases cannot be dropped and proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. As of May the unit reported 130 cases. Following reports of abuse, the unit’s officers counseled victims. A male officer also counseled perpetrators. Police worked with the National Center for Women and Children as well as the Women and Children Crisis Center to provide shelter for abused women, and girls and boys under age 14. Both centers had a safe house for victims. The Free Wesleyan Church operated a hotline for women in trouble, and the Salvation Army provided counseling and rehabilitation programs.
In 2013 the police domestic violence unit, together with various NGOs, including the National Center for Women and Children, the Women and Children Crisis Center, and the Salvation Army, conducted public awareness and prevention campaigns against domestic violence. As of June statistics compiled by the Women and Children Crisis Center indicated that 103 persons, including 64 women, seven men, and 32 children, received assistance from the center during the year.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, and there were no reports of such practices.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a crime under the law, but physical sexual assault can be prosecuted as indecent assault. Sexual harassment within a domestic relationship is an offense. Complaints received by the police domestic violence unit indicated that sexual harassment of women sometimes occurred. As of June the Women and Children Crisis Center reported no cases of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Public hospitals, health centers, and several local and international NGOs provided free information about and access to contraception. Under a Ministry of Health policy, a woman is not permitted to undergo a tubal ligation at a public hospital without the consent of her husband or, in his absence, her male next of kin. Spousal consent is not required for men to undergo a vasectomy. Public hospitals and health centers provide free prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care. Many pregnant women reportedly did not seek these services, and availability of these services was reduced in the outer islands. A high maternal mortality rate of 110 per 100,000 births was anecdotally attributable to this. According to data published by the World Health Organization, skilled health personnel attend 99 percent of births.
Discrimination: Inheritance laws, especially those concerned with land, discriminate against women. Women can lease land, but inheritance rights pass through the male heirs only. Under the inheritance laws, the claim to a father’s estate by a male child born out of wedlock takes precedence over the claim of the deceased’s widow or daughter. If there are no male relatives, a widow is entitled to remain on her husband’s land as long as she does not remarry and remains celibate. Both the inheritance laws and the land rights laws increased economic discrimination that women experienced in terms of their ability to access credit, and own and operate businesses.
Women participated in the work force at a lower rate than that of their male counterparts (63 percent for men compared with 42 percent for women). As of 2003 (latest available data) average weekly earnings were higher for men: 127 pa’anga ($74) compared with 112 pa’anga ($66) for women (see section 7.d.). Women who rose to positions of leadership often had links with the nobility. Some female commoners held senior leadership positions in business and government, including as minister of education.
The Office of Women within the Ministry of Education, Women, and Culture is responsible for facilitating development projects for women and assisted women’s groups in setting up work programs.
The National Center for Women and Children and the Women and Children Crisis Center focused on domestic abuse and improving the economic and social conditions of women. Other NGOs, including Ma’a Fafine Moe Famili (For Women and Families, Inc.) and the Tonga National Women’s Congress, promoted human rights, focusing on the rights of women and children. Several religiously affiliated women’s groups also advocated for women’s legal rights.