Guest Perspective: Domestic Violence Act passes after nine years

After a prolonged review and deliberation period, the Ninth Pohnpei State Legislature, in a unanimous vote (20-0) voted in favor of the Domestic Violence Act of 2017. This new law basically established family violence offenses as a separate chapter under the criminal code, provides for emergency protective orders for the victims, and incorporates rehabilitation opportunities for the perpetrators.
Over the years while the Bill sat in Legislature, the Pohnpei Women Council organized lobbying activities and appeared before the Legislature more than once to lend support to the passage of the Bill. In an effort to preempt passage of the Bill, the council took one step further and renovated an old government building to use for response and intervention services to victims of family violence. Now that the law is finally in place, it’s time to operationalize the delivery of that service.
Former Senator Magdalena Walter worked tirelessly to get her colleagues to come on board, so special acknowledgment of that work is proper and timely. The Pohnpeian students who came down from University of Guam to testify before the Committee did an excellent job of sharing their stories and a huge “Kalahngan” is extended to every one of them. The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL), back in 2011, passed a resolution urging passage of the Bill by the PSL. The foreign missions based in FSM, especially the Australian Mission, have consistently urged individual senators to support the Bill. At one point or another, during the past nine years, people in various capacities have expressed strong support for the Bill. Thank you all very much.
In 2013, when Kosrae State Legislature passed their Family Protection law, there was much confidence that the momentum would spill across the ocean to the PSL to follow suit, but unfortunately, there were still outstanding concerns regarding certain provisions in the Bill. According to the coconut wireless, the perceived conflict this law would have on Pohnpeian custom was a dominant factor in the delay of its’ passage.
Then right after Kosrae State passed its law, the UNFPA came into FSM and carried out a Family Health and Safety Study which revealed what was already known by many that violence against women exists in FSM (32.8%). In the final Standing Committee Report, it was the definition of the Discipline of Children that remained a concern so that was changed to align with the Constitution and Pohnpeian traditions. It should be noted here that Art. 5, s. 2 of the Pohnpeian Constitution clearly provides that where a statute is in conflict with Pohnpeian customs, the Legislature shall enact a new law to uphold that particular custom. The protection of Pohnpeian custom is therefore still paramount in this regard.
November 7, 2017 will go down in the history of Pohnpei as a particularly important day because of the passage of this new law establishing family violence as a criminal offense. At the end of the day, it is you, the Senators of the Ninth Pohnpei Legislature that made it all possible because you cast your affirmative vote on that day. Kaping lap oh mwuledek pwehki doadoahk eh pweidahr.
Now, onto enforcement!!!
Marstella E. Jack