Horrific sexual violence in Solomon Islands exposed

Posted on 7 September 2011


By Amelia Romanos
4:31 PM Tuesday Sep 6, 2011

Women living in the slums of the Solomon Islands face a high risk of being assaulted while walking long distances at night to bathe, collect water or use toilets. File photo / Greg Bowker

The devastating reality of sexual violence being suffered by women in the Solomon Islands has been laid bare in a Amnesty International report released in Auckland today.

The report – Where is the Dignity in That – looked particularly at the abuse suffered by women living in Solomon Island slums, and found 64 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 in the country had been physically or sexually abused.

Women in slums faced a high risk of being assaulted while walking long distances at night to bathe, collect water or use toilets.

A 37-year-old woman from a settlement in Mamanawata told Amnesty International about being severely beaten up and raped by two men in the settlement after relieving herself in the sea.

“They came and one of them grabbed my arm and one closed his hand over my mouth. They held me down and took my clothes off and raped me,” she said.

“They were very violent and I had bruises all over my body. I wanted to die desperately and I was crying and crying thinking of my children.

“After they raped me, they warned me that if I told anyone they would cut me up. I was so afraid but couldn’t do anything. I see them around the settlement but I wouldn’t dare tell the police. They’re very violent and lawless and will not hesitate to hurt me again.”

In another case, an 18-year-old woman spoke about being gang-raped by six men as she went to collect water in the afternoon.

When one man demanded she have sex with him she refused he punched her in the stomach.

“The others then grabbed me and carried me to the bush where I was raped. They each raped me and then left me there after threatening to kill me and my family,” she said.

“I was so ashamed for being raped. I vowed not to tell my family because it would bring shame to them. I took the water home and didn’t tell my family anything.”

The report noted that domestic violence against women was largely ignored and that the abuse continued to be seen as a private issue, with police often reluctant to intervene.

“In a number of settlements … the existence of a police post in the area has done little to prevent the harassment and assault of women and girls,” the report read.

The report described the slum situation in the Solomons as unsustainable and in urgent need of Government action.

“The response so far has ranged from outright refusal to acknowledge a problem to toothless gestures. It is time for the Government to step up to its responsibilities and restore some hope to these neglected communities.”

Launching the report today, to coincide with the Pacific Islands Forum this week, Amnesty International chief executive Patrick Holmes said the problem of abuse was common throughout the region.

“The issue of violence against women in the Pacific is a human rights issue of epic proportions, and the need to address it is urgent,” Mr Holmes said.

“As leaders meet for the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Auckland this week, daughters, sisters, mothers and wives will continue to be beaten, raped or killed.”

Mr Homes called on Pacific governments to make long term plans to protect women.

“Violence against women is the ultimate physical manifestation of this entrenched discrimination, and the human rights violations that occur are perpetuated by inadequate and outdated legislation,” he said.

“The violence is not only a reality, it’s our reality and it’s one that we all have a responsibility to address.”