There is a push to do away with corporal punishment of children and refraining from the use of violence to discipline children as Samoa and 12 other Pacific island countries concluded a meeting with the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

One of the key elements discussed at the follow-up visit by the CRC on the extraordinary CRC84th session held in 2020, queried the connections between Pacific Island countries’ cultures and rights of children.

The three-day follow-up visit at the Taumeasina Island Resort concluded on Wednesday with a broader understanding between the CRC and the Pacific island countries.

Chairman of the CRC, Ann Skelton in a press conference on Wednesday expressed her excitement on the outcomes of the visit stressing that it focused on the rights of children and climate change.

“The follow up from the CRC84 and to see how the states are doing with implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and how far have they got with carrying out the recommendations that the committee made to them when they were here the last time,” she said.

“The follow-up comprises two elements, one was that one committee member went to each of the three states that were reviewed by us the last time that was Tuvalu, Cook Islands, and the Federated states of Micronesia last week.

“We were on the ground meeting with governments, civil societies and children and then we came here to Samoa and the 12 Pacific countries were represented and we discussed the progress that the states have made like the challenges that they are experiencing and we looked at some specific thematic areas as well.

“So we looked at violence in terms of smacking of children but also more broadly, violence in the homes or broadly domestic and sexual violence and abuse.”

Photo: Kitiona Utuva/Samoa Observer

The CRCand representatives from each Pacific island country also looked at children in the criminal justice system, child justice issues, the minimum age of criminal responsibility which she stressed is quite low in most of the countries, and also climate change.

2We had a good discussion on what states are doing, innovative things that different states are doing around including this in the curriculum, having children ready for disaster situations and also what they are doing in the awareness raising and decision making, how children are being involved in that as well,” she added.

The meeting also emphasised on action points and acting on them now when they go back to their respective countries.

Meanwhile, what the committee hoped to get out of this visit was to initiate actions to propel things along as it would and to make sure that this motivates states to look at where they are in the process of implementation and what they still need to do.

Asked whether this was being achieved in the meeting, the chairman said it was achieved.

“I mean of course the work still has to be done but the commitment to doing the work and identifying what needs to be done was achieved,” she said.

“This was also a peer-to-peer learning and listening to one another and learning from the practices of one another and in the room we saw quite a dynamic process of states knowing about one another.

“It’s a learning process from not only the committee’s expertise to the member states but also these countries amongst themselves. One country was sharing about their education system, these are the things they do and we said this was a really good idea and maybe we can try that in our country.

“It’s a good opportunity because when they meet together like this it’s not often and the child’s rights space, it is not often they talk amongst themselves to talk about child’s rights they usually meet in bigger meetings. It’s a big agenda and child’s rights is a small part but this one focuses on the convention, work of the committee and on the children’s rights and the government.

“”So there was a lot of dialogue between them and we would happily encourage them and to see that happen.”

Justice Vui Clarence Nelson who was a member of the CRC stressed on the importance of raising awareness of children’s rights and why they should not be beaten and its connection to the culture.

“If you look at the cultures of all of the Pacific countries they are not really different. They are based on concepts of helping each other, notions of family, concepts that children are important members of the family and that we should treasure them and not beat them,” he said.

“So there’s a lot of common areas throughout the Pacific cultures even though the cultures individually are different, but fundamentally, they share these common values and that’s the common values they bring to the table when they talk about children in particular.

“And they all agree that they should teach them instead of beating them and we don’t teach them by beating them. All we’re doing is teaching them that beating is a way of solving the problem. So there was a lot of that kind of experience that was brought to the floor by these people with different cultures.”

On the practical side of things, Skelton explained that during the dialogue between countries and the Committee, there were also a lot of people who asked how they are going to convince people back at home as some people will query smacking as part of their culture.

The committee also discovered that some people have to go through a little bit of a process to fully change their perspectives as well.

“So that’s perfectly normal and natural and we know some people who grew up with being smacked and finding it quite hard to adjust to the idea that smacking isn’t not appropriate,” she explained.

“The acceptance that smacking children (a) is violence, (b) that stopping smacking of children is a key thing we can do to break the cycle of violence.

“There was still a discussion or debate going on about that so people themselves still needed to be convinced but also thinking, even if I am convinced how am I going to take this forward.

“But there were also some really great moments when people actually said that they had actually stopped smacking children because of what they learned from the CRC84th extraordinary session.

“They are now courageous enough to be the champions that would take this forward in their own countries and say that they would stand up for that and follow up through and make this part of a campaign to change people’s mind.

“Nobody said that this would be easy but that it is important and that we have to face some questions head on like, is it true to say that our culture includes smacking, if it is, does our culture include violence, so these are things mane people like to use culture as a reason why they don’t want to change but there were some beginnings of some important conversations about this which we’ll have to continue at the country level.

“Because nobody from outside says this is how you should do it. Each country will have to work out their own way of doing it and contextualise that so that it is palatable and practicable at the national level,” she said.