'Raits blong mere'? framing human rights and gender in Solomon Islands

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In Solomon Islands, the language of human rights has become central to national legislation, policy making and NGO activism, focusing in particular on women's rights and violence against women. This is partly the result of trying to deal with the aftermath of a devastating conflict (1998–2003), which was due to growing anxieties between Malaitans and Guadalcanal people with regard to development equity and cultural respect. During the civil conflict, which is by Solomon Islanders commonly referred to as 'the ethnic tension,' Solomon Islands experienced increasing civil unrest and instability, leading to a breakdown in law and order and a failure of essential government services. Moreover, gender-based violence against women and girls seems to have increased, and has become entrenched. In 2003, after the Solomon Islands government requested assistance, Australia intervened through the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which stopped most of the violence.

However, according to many foreign and national reports, violence against women continues to be a problem in 'post-conflict' Solomon Islands. As will be discussed, this violence is frequently attributed to Solomon Islands' 'traditional' culture, which is often portrayed as conservative and patriarchal, with women having little autonomy and no political power.

For the Solomon Islands' government and international aid agencies, combating violence against women is of importance not just for humane reasons, but also because of the alleged relationship between gender equality and development, which has been emulated around the world by influential scholars, people like Hilary Clinton, the World Bank and the United Nations. In Solomon Islands, this global discourse on women's rights and development is put to work by AusAID and the local government's emphasis on seeking justice for women's experiences of sexual violence in conflict situations; combating post-conflict gender violence; and securing increased representation of women in policy- and decision-making bodies. Through the work of NGOs, men and women in even the most remote rural areas have been urged to partake in workshops and awareness programs dealing with women's rights violations and justice issues. This is also the case in Marau, Guadalcanal Province, the area where the conflict between Guadalcanal people and immigrants from Malaita ignited.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIntersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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