The deteriorating statistics in relation to the increase of incidents of domestic violence in Samoa worries the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development.
So much so Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa said the government is looking to work with Village Councils to ensure men who beat their wives are held accountable and punished as a village offense.
The concern by the C.E.O follows the result of the ‘Family Safety Strategy’ Survey, which shows that incidents of domestic violence where women are physically, emotionally and sexually abused have increased by 20 per cent in Samoa since the last survey in 2000.
Fuimapoao said the survey shows 60 per cent of women surveyed were abused is “scary” and “very critical.” The figure in domestic violence “should come as a wake up call to all of us.”
The first such survey was released in 2000 and it showed that 40 per cent of women were violated emotionally, physically and sexually.
“This recent survey has the numbers increased (from 40) to 60per cent and the problem continues to happen so long as the mentality remains that men are ‘pule’ (owners) of the family.”
The C.E.O explained the survey they conducted back in 2000 was also a scary one.
She recalled that during the 11th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting held in Samoa last year, it was revealed that “60% of young women, that were surveyed, said that it was ok for a man to beat his wife."
“They held that belief and they will grow up with that understanding.
“Even the country wide survey that came through, that a lot of men and women, have the belief that a man is justified to discipline his wife including beating her in some way or manner for at least one reason.”
According to the C.E.O, there have been awareness campaigns but if the mentality is there that this is the way, the problem will continue.
She gave an example of how difficult it is to get it across to the Country that domestic violence is wrong.
“All of us know that you actually need to eat less and exercise more to live healthy, so how many of us actually do that? That’s how hard it is to get this across.
“It’s not a matter of government coming along and preaching to people... that is easy but to change the mindset as a father, young man, chief, and a woman. That is the hard part.
“And it starts within families... this is where you are nurtured how to behave, how to live life.
“This is where we teach our children the importance of respecting one another. As our sons get ready to have their families, they should be directed on how they carry out their relationship with their wives.
“You being the head of the household does not mean that you have the right to beat someone else’s daughter or sister. We are supposed to be a Christian nation, and we’re supposed to live by what the Bible teaches.”
She also pointed out the wrong interpretation regarding what the Bible says.
“The Bible says that father’s is the head of the family and it was interpreted as “owner-pule” and therefore, this pule can discipline.
“Is that really what the Bible says, and then also because its been repeated over the years that this is how Samoan families have been operated for the longest time.
“We need to accept the fact that is not what the Bible says and that is not the Samoan culture. It’s the total opposite. So that’s the conversation’s we need to have.”
She told Samoa Observer one of the steps taken was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Council of Churches where they will make it a priority for the church Ministers to remind their members that domestic violence is wrong.
She said another avenue is using the village councils.
“If the villages can penalize a anyone for theft, rape, they should also penalize those who abuse their wives,” she said.
“This matter is not only a government problem in terms of enforcement, but it should also be addressed in churches and in the villages.
“We know that our chiefs are highly regarded and this message coming directly from them, I’m sure there will be changes, as these numbers are very scary.”