09 March 2015 The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga has agreed to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) after lengthy and thorough discussions in Cabinet on Wednesday 4 and Friday 6 March 2015.
The Prime Minister, Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, today said, “This is a historic day for Tonga. A day that all Tongans; women and men; girls and boys; young and old; can look at with great pride. For it is the day when the international community of nations join the Government of our proud nation, in support of our endeavour to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls.”
The Hon Prime Minister also pointed out that his Cabinet’s decision to ratify CEDAW was arrived at, only after lengthy and thorough discussions, and after consultations by individual members of Cabinet with community and church leaders, and their constituencies, as some of the provisions of CEDAW are clearly in conflict with Tonga’s Constitution and laws.
“So our decision to ratify was made on the very clear understanding that the Government’s ratification will be with reservations in respect of those provisions that are incompatible with our laws. In effect, this means that our instrument of ratification will include the declaration that, the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga is prepared to apply the provisions of the Convention nationally, on the condition that it does not conflict with the provisions of the Constitution and all the laws of Tonga regarding succession to the throne and nobility, abortion and same sex marriage. On top of that, the duration of our reservations will also be unlimited.” the Prime Minister Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva said.
The last time Cabinet had discussed the ratification of CEDAW was in December 2011, and the decision back then was that a series of public consultations should be held to reach agreement on contentious issues, and to find appropriate wording for Tonga’s reservations in respect of the specific articles of CEDAW that were clearly in conflict with the Constitution and the laws of Tonga. Numerous public consultations were held all over Tonga in the last 4 years, with the most recent being in February 2015, in which all the major stakeholders decided that it was time to re-submit the ratification of CEDAW to Cabinet for consideration and approval.
Government’s agreement to ratify CEDAW comes on the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, that was adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Tonga’s delegation to the Beijing Conference was led by Her Majesty, Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho, The Queen Mother. The “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” is the main focus of the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, which will be held on 9-20 March 2015, including the current challenges that affect its implementation, and the achievement of gender equality, and the empowerment of women throughout the world.
Tonga’s delegation to the 59th Session of CSW, and the 20th Anniversary of the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, is being led by the Minister for Internal Affairs, Hon Sosefo Fe’aomoeata Vakata. It is expected that the Hon Minister will announce Tonga’s decision to ratify CEDAW during his address to the CSW59 plenary, scheduled for Monday 9 March (New York time).
The Hon Prime Minister concluded, “I hope that the Government’s decision to ratify CEDAW on the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” will also be deemed as our humble gift to Her Majesty, The Queen Mother, Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho, in recognition of her unheralded leadership and tireless work in support of all the women and girls of Tonga.”