Micronesia is a collection of more than 600 islands and islets located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Caroline Islands archipelago and is split into the states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.
According to a 2016 report on human rights in Micronesia filed by the United States Department of State, corruption, discrimination and violence against women are the most common violations of human rights in the republic. Judicial delays, domestic violence, child neglect and foreign worker abuse pose problems for human rights in Micronesia as well. There is no protection in the Micronesian constitution against discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.
In 2014, the Family Health and Safety Study reported that violence against women is a regular occurrence, and is most often perpetrated by a close family member. The same study found that 33 percent of of partnered women were physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime by a partner.
There is no law that prohibits a husband from sexually assaulting his wife in Micronesia. Although it is punishable by up to ten years in prison, depending on whether it involves a deadly weapon, it often goes unreported and authorities do not prosecute many cases.
Effective prosecution of domestic violence poses yet another problem for human rights in Micronesia. This is partly due to many victims choosing not to press charges against a family member. Pressure from their families, fear of being assaulted again, and the belief that authorities will not get involved in private family affairs are common reasons for this.
The government does not provide shelter or support for battered women, although there is a private facility for women in Chuuk that receives its funding from a foreign government. The department of public safety in Pohnpei offers education on domestic violence and trains officers to handle such cases. There is also a hotline specifically for reports of it.
Although violence against women is a significant problem for human rights in Micronesia, The Family Health and Safety Study emphasizes raising awareness of violence against women and advancing methods to improve the well-being of women and children. Women’s groups in the republic continue working towards raising awareness, and the island nation is being motivated to consider passing laws that criminalize violence against women.
Several groups shared the results of regional meetings in October 2014 and discussed several issues, including the progress of women, women and children’s access to health and education and women in leadership. Micronesia’s government was given a number of recommendations for strengthening the protection of women at its universal periodic review in 2016. With these steps being taken, Micronesia is getting closer to resolving its gender equality and human rights issues.
– Fernando Vazquez