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House unites in comfort zone of set culture and tradition

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

FROM OUR ARCHIVES, 20 October 2009

From the House, by Pesi Fonua

Tonga's parliament discovered an elusive unity of purpose last month, when after months of frustrating debate over the direction of reform the House led by the Prime Minister, decided almost to a man, that some set beliefs and traditions should be upheld and the Constitution should not be changed to allow Tongan women equality under the law.

The Prime Minister did not think that any members of the House, "who are supposed to be the leaders of the country" would agree that Tonga should be a signature to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

So, on this unfortunate issue, the leadership of Dr Feleti Sevele has at last won the support of a majority of members of the Tongan parliament; an interesting development as we are heading for a new election, only 12 months away, of a new government under a new system of government.

The unprecedented victory by the Prime Minister and the praise he received for it from his opponents in the House, came about after he clarified to the Whole House Committee on 17 September why government rejected a motion that was passed by the House last year calling on government to ratify CEDAW. The motion was tabled into the House by People's Representatives 'Akilisi Pohiva and 'Isileli Pulu.

The Prime Minister said that government is in full support of the law and the Constitution of Tonga, "our hereditary, culture, and family life, and the right of women."

Land and hereditary titles

However, Dr Sevele told the House that there were confusing issues that needed to be clarified. Firstly, was the objective of the convention, stated in section one, which he believed was to "terminate all clauses of the constitution and the law, and traditional and cultural matters that differentiate women and men."

"Section Two states that a country that ratifies the convention has to act without delay to terminate law and the constitution that differentiate men from women."

He said that if Tonga ratified the Convention then Tonga would have to amend the Land Act, the hereditary issues relating to noble titles, and the title to the Tongan Throne. "We have a set belief in our traditions, and in the bible, that the head of the family is the man. That would be removed."


He said that in the case of a divorce, the husband and wife would have to share their wealth equally between them. "We also have to allow same-sex marriages."

Therefore the Prime Minister did not think that any members of the House, "who are supposed to be the leaders of the country would agree that Tonga should be a signature to the Convention."

He said that it had been reported that Tonga is one of three countries in the region that had not ratified the convention, but he remained firm in his conviction that if it was against "our culture, tradition, constitution and the law, and we are the only one that does not ratify it, then let it be." He reminded the committee that the USA had not ratified the convention either.


Following the Prime Minister's presentation the two members who tabled the motion, 'Akilisi Pohiva and 'Isileli Pulu, praised the Prime Minister for his presentation and 'Akilisi asked for their motion to be withdrawn, despite the fact that it had been approved by the House last year and rejected by government this year.

'Isileli Pulu, praised the Prime Minister for his most comprehensive speech, "the first this year, and during the past few years."

Clive Edwards who during the past few years has been an ardent opponent of the Prime Minister in the House, asked the Chairman for permission so that he could tell the Prime Minister that they (meaning he and others who have been habitually opposed to anything that is proposed by government) are in full support of the stance taken by government not to ratify CEDAW, stating, "we believe that it would tarnish our hereditary custom and our laws."

'Isileli said that the campaign speech of the Prime Minister was too long but very comprehensive.


'Uliti Uata said he supported the PM's speech.

'Akilisi said that was how they should work in the House, if they knew that a right decision had been made, they should give it their full support. "So we hope that you will do the same," he said. But then later he abstained from voting.

The Chairman who was eager for the committee to proceed said that he would call for votes.

'Akilisi Pohiva, 'Isileli Pulu and Sunia Fili did not think there was any need for the committee to vote on the CEDAW issue.

"We fully support the government's view, so we should leave it there, it is finished, finished," scolded 'Akilisi, as though he regretted that he had tabled the motion in the first place.


The Prime Minister, however, insisted that it was important for government for the House to vote on the government's decision not to ratify the convention, because overseas people will be interested to know if the government's decision had the support of the House.

Clive Edwards did not think it was a big issue for them to vote on the CEDAW issue, but what was most important to be recorded was their support for government not ratifying the convention was not because they disagreed with women's rights, but because the convention clashed with the status and the Constitution of Tonga.

The Chairman called for votes on the decision by government not to ratify CEDAW. It was carried 18-1. Against was Sunia Fili.

For it were Clive Edwards, 'Etuate Lavulavu, 'UIliti Uata, Sione Feingatau 'Iloa, Minister of Commerce, Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, Minister of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Information, the Minister of Environment, Noble Fulivai, Noble Tangipa, Noble Tu'iha'angana, Noble Vaha'i and Noble Tu'ilakepa.

Abstaining were 'Akilisi Pohiva, 'Isileli Pulu and Teisina Fuko.


Parliament buries Tongan women's plight - Sione A. Mokofisi: Shame on the entire Tongan Legislative Assembly and Prime Minister Sevele for committing one of the most egregious political blunders (House unites in comfort zone … 20 Oct 2009) in modern times. They rejected ratifying the UN's 1979 CEDAW treaty, which calls for the promotion of women's welfare, and the protection of their rights around the world. But this “Good Old Boys Club,” ostensibly called the Tongan Parliament, treated the CEDAW like some kind of foreign disease that threatens Tongan culture and customs. They were more afraid of “same-sex marriage” than seeing Tongan women's status improved in a Constitution written 135 years ago. Their unanimous agreement to bury women's plight in modern Tonga is incomprehensible, and shameful. Except, I could see them burying their heads in the sand hoping that the alarming increase in Tonga's domestic crimes against women is a temporary climate change.

Instead, they are proclaiming there's nothing wrong with how women are treated in Tonga. They see no relationships between domestic crimes against women and the status of women in Tongan society.

For a starter, how many women are there in the House? Legislators do not need to look far for an explanation. They are probably uncomfortable and afraid of strong-minded women to join their ranks. Therefore, they are satisfied with the “self-fulfilling prophesy:” That women are second class citizens, and young Tongan girls grow up believing that they are second class citizens, and not as good as men. They remind me of our Tongan proverb: “Lau pe 'e he Lokua ko e moana hono ta puta.” This Good Old Boys Club mentality thinks that their limited knowledge is the whole universe. - Sione A. Mokofisi, University of Phoenix

Thank you for not ratifying CEDAW - Viliami Tiseli:
For a very longtime in the House of Legislative Assembly I couldn’t recall nor that have I known that they’ve ever reached an undisputed decision especially for this very important issue. They have debated for so long, turning everything upside down, rolling all the rocks, seeking advice and now have come to an unanimous unity, beliefs in our tradition, culture, families, religious, laws, and constitution and voted not to ratify the convention. I thank the House and Prime Minister for all the hard work and courageous decision for the benefit of the people of Tonga.

This UN convention (CEDAW) was set-up in 1979, many countries including US government, Europe, and small Pacific countries for over 100 years have already passed laws and bill and still continue to promote and protect the welfare and rights of women. Last week on October 19th, the US govt commemorating the 15 yrs of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA Act). The Statistics also shows over 1.8 million domestics crimes in US against women in the past year and almost 20 million cases around the world for same period. It also shows that in every 100 domestic violence situation, approximately 40 cases involve violence by women against men.

Every country including US and Tonga are doing their best to promote and protect the welfare and rights of women.
The rights for same sex marriage issue will damage and destroy our true cultural values, norm, our visionary goal that is stipulated in our laws, constitution, and of course the Bible. Our strong family ties, relation and connection, religious faith, social and cultural ideology that we embraced and enjoyed for centuries will be ruined and gone forever. The unanimous vote and stand shows leadership, solidify our cultural uniqueness, our religious and Christian belief, the importance of our hereditary rights for our land and assets, and avoid any predetermined agenda and fault set-up to destroy a family.

We Tongan people in our social and family structure fully respect the status of women in whatever things they do in education, work or in our society. We have the ‘Fahu’ system, we respect our sisters more than any other ethnicity or groups. But when you suggest allocating a certain number of women for the House, I am confused and lost. Is that what we call democracy? Can you help and tell me how many seat in the US Congress allocated for women? How many in UK, Australia, NZ, Pacific countries, etc. none. They leave it to the people to vote for someone they trust to serve them better. Its not about the rank, social class and status in the society. I think it is us who don’t really understand the issue and try to indoctrinate and persuade people through propaganda and misinformation. - Viliami Tiseli

Rejecting CEDAW enriches Tongan male biases - Sione A. Mokofisi:
Mr. Viliami Tiseli's rebuttal supports the Tongan Legislative Assembly's rejection of the UN's CEDAW treaty (Thank you…31 Oct 2009), and it can be evaluated in three ways:

1. He fails to evaluate the action of the House in a logical and critical manner.

Logically shouldn't we ask: How many of the Tongan Legislative Assembly members, who debated and voted on this issue concerning women, were women? Here's why the question is relevant:
Example (a). The Founding Fathers of the United States were all white men. In white male-dominated America in the 1700s-1900s only white men made decisions, females were not allowed to vote until 1920. Colored people (Blacks and American Indians) were not citizens until after the American Civil War ended in 1870.
Interpretation: The all-white male Founding Fathers were beneficiaries of a system they designed for themselves, white men.
Example (b). The late Queen Salote Tupou III, the only female Monarch in the modern Tongan era, promoted the education of young Tongan girls in education, the nursing profession and teaching. Women's suffrage was won in the Kingdom during her reign,1960.
Interpretation: Advancement of Tongan women was most pronounced during the reign of a female leader.

Critical Evaluation

Critically, we must evaluate our own biases. Shouldn't we ask: Aren't there conflicts of interest and biases involved with an all-male Legislative Assembly, who are beneficiaries of Tongan society's discrimination against women (hereditary tax allotment law), to improve the safety and economic status of all women in Tonga?

2. Mr. Tiseli supports the discriminatory law against Tongan women in the current Constitution because he is a beneficiary like the “Good Old Boys Club” in the House. They play lip service to Tongan unwritten customs, but refuse to commit them to written form and share their land-ownership rights with women.

Fact: Mr. Tiseli can rationalize all he wants, but the land tenure law (hereditary tax allotment) favors men over women, thus creating an underprivileged class: Tongan women.

Fact: The Constitution declares in Clause 4 that no law shall protect one class of people and discriminates against another class:

Clause 4. There shall be but one law in Tonga for chiefs and commoners for non-Tongans and Tongans. No laws shall be enacted for one class and not for another class but the law shall be the same for all the people of this land. (Amended by Act 3 of 1976.)

Fact: Tonga's Polynesian culture is a male-dominated tradition where women are subservient to men. Ask a young unmarried pregnant girl or woman in Tonga. While she is shunned in the community, the father of her child is hailed as a real “man.” PM Dr. Sevele's Biblical quote “the man is the head of the family” is misplaced logic from a hunter-gatherer society. Women are equal partners to men today; some women are more capable and smarter in business than most men.

Fact: Our respects for sisters, the fahu system, etc., are just traditions. They're not written law. They should be the very proud reasons for Tonga to ratify CEDAW, not the alternative excuses. Unwritten traditions are subjected to the whims of Tongan men who consider women their properties.

Who has ratified CEDAW?

Fact: Mr. Tiseli and his family live and enjoy all the rights under New Zealand law which protects and promotes the rights of women. New Zealand ratified CEDAW in 1985. New Zealand feels it is the government's obligations to promote and protect its female citizenry, especially the plight of Maori, and Pacific Islanders living there. NZ is also one of the largest Foreign Aids donors to Tonga.
Fact: Australia, home to thousands of Tongan immigrants, and one of the largest Foreign Aids donors to Tonga, ratified CEDAW August 17, 1983. Over 90% of all UN member nations (185) have ratified CEDAW.
Fact: There are only three island states in the Pacific who have not ratified CEDAW. They are all among the poorest island states in the Pacific: Tonga, Palau, and Nauru … “Birds of similar feathers flock together.”
3. I find Prime Minister Dr. Feleti Sevele's persuasive, and fear-mongering Biblical references in the House intellectually dishonest. He has no proof to backup his cultural-decay claims such as: “We also have to allow same-sex marriage.” While he is proud of the US refusal to ratify the CEDAW, same-sex-marriage has become law in some American states that have approved it.
Example: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont have legalized it. Maine will begin January 01, 2010. California recognized marriages between June 16 and November 4, 2008. Proposition 8 failed to pass November 4, 2008 voters' approval, thus prohibiting the practice since.

PM Promotes Feudal System

Dr. Sevele has no proof that the CEDAW will “tarnish our hereditary custom and our laws.” Therefore, his premise is flawed. What at stake here is a “land ownership” issue, the base of economic survival and success in Tonga as an agricultural economy. Like in a feudal system, Tongan men are entitled to be the masters, while women can only “rent land for long term” as serfs, and in the mercy of a benevolent benefactor.

“The government believes that Tonga is unique for maintaining women's dignity and their status in society. We are also used to women holding high ceremonial figure in Tonga,” Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele said on a national TV programm.

This is the biggest con job talk I've heard from from a Tongan PM. Tongan women ought to be insulted. Holding out a carrot for “women holding high ceremonial figure in Tonga” is just that…for ceremonial purposes. It does not create wealth in a democratic society, Mr. PM. Only one brave and “fakapotopoto” MP (PR Sunia Fili) stood up against 23 anachronistic MPs and voted for the CEDAW. PR Fili is the only one worthy of representing all people of Tonga, both men and women. It is noted that three gutless People's Representatives ran and hid themselves behind their wives' skirts, and not be accountable: 'Akilisi Pohiva, 'Isileli Pulu, and Teisina Fuko.

Discriminating against women keeps the egregious breach of the Constitution Clause 4 alive, and maintains Tongan men's advantage in a traditional feudal system. It is time for Tonga's land distribution law to be brought up-to-date to the 21st Century. Is there a relationship between the increasing domestic crimes against women in Tonga, and how women are treated as second class citizens under the law, and our unwritten traditions? - Sione A. Mokofisi

Reality, parliament follows its agenda - Viliami Tiseli
Mr. Mokofisi, I thank you for your response (Nov 1st, 09). Your evaluation was totally based on your individual assumptions and theoretical principles which I think it is very hard to link to the issue.

1. You suggest evaluating the action of the House in a logical and critical manner.

Mr. Mkokofisi please wake up and be realistic, have you ever watch your TV news, read your Newspapers about all the controversies around fundamental transformation and push for changes through the actions, debates and votes in various House Committees and House of Congress such as your Healthcare Bill and other Bill. It is exactly the same principle that happens in Australia and here in New Zealand. But that is the reality of what is actually happening in the world and in almost every House of Parliament (National, Federal, or State), they have their own Agenda, Guidelines and framework to follow whether we like it or not of their logic and actions. That is why it is impossible for anyone to evaluate the debate or actions and expect to get the result that they like.

However, if we need to analyze and evaluate the reason of their rejection to ratify the CEDAW as you suggest doing in a logical and critical manner, we may need to do a survey, choose the methodology to use, collate key data and information relevant for that issue and start to analyse it. But through voting that is the perfect and acceptable tool to evaluate of their individual, party, or bipartisan interpretation of the debate. The results we have to accept it regardless of differences in opinion.

The examples presented are totally irrelevant to analyze for this particular issue.
1) The Founding Fathers of the United States and white dominant and beneficiaries in America. The story happened at a different place, time, situation and circumstances, and purpose. We cannot compare an apple with an orange.
2) The late Queen Salote promotion of Tongan girls for education.

Another extraneous story. Tupou College was established in 1866 by Missionaries, 9 years before the Constitution is written and passed. Tonga College was the first secondary school established by govt in 1882 i.e.7 years after the Constitution passed. Tonga High School was the second government secondary school established in 1947. My father-in law was one of the first 12 students enrolled at the school. The late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV was the Prime Minister and Minister of Education at the time. It was his idea to establish the THS where most of successful women excel same with other colleges.

The unanimous decision in the House shows the democracy is working through bipartisanship vote, the transparency of all parties shows unity and unbiased of all members including PR Sunia Fili, “who support and did not think there was any need for the committee to vote on the CEDAW issue”.

2. Mr. Mokofisi you are confusing, you accused that I support the law of discrimination against Tongan women. You know very well that there is no such law in Tonga. You also quoted in your letter Clause 4 of the Constitution “… that there is one law in Tonga for all including Nobles, Commoners, Tongan, Non Tongan, men and women and anyone …” Please stop the conjecture and gossiping, it is a waste of time. Tongan people are smart, loving, caring, and respecting people. Our tradition and culture is not text book stuff, and not a written law, but it is a living way of life for years and will continue to the future.

Mr. Mokofisi That is why my family enjoys living in Tonga and still is not here. The only reason of our migrating is to bring my children (4 daughters) here for a better education. They’re almost complete and we will return home to Tonga and not what you’re saying and please respect my family.

3. Mr. Mokofisi you also accuse the Prime Minister in his Biblical reference to same sex marriage and his fear about the risk involved in the hereditary rights to the land, assets, etc. You’re right most of American States did not ratify the CEDAW but UN Head Quarter is in NY, why didn’t you help the feminist groups and activist around those States to lobby around for their rights?

We all suffer from something psychologists call it “fundamental attribution error” It works like this: If something good happens in my life, I tend to explain it by taking credit, if I fail; I explain it by blaming either my circumstances or others. If I do well in a test, I explain it I’m smart. If I do poorly, it’s because I was distracted.

Mr. Mokofisi what makes the fundamental attribution error even worse is the way we react and explain the behavior of other people, while explaining our own bad behavior in terms of extenuating circumstances. For radical extremist its easy to blame and point fingers rather than be wise as one of life’s greatest challenges is thinking and doing the right things that ultimately matter and bring success, unite our society, prioritize our goals and work to achieve it. - Viliami Tiseli, New Zealand

The Tonga parliament thumbing down of CEDAW, a no brainer - Sefita Hau‘oli
CEDAW is not the issue. It is the future of Tongan women in our society that requires closer scrutiny and for that reason, CEDAW served its purpose as a weathervane.

On today’s evidence, the future for Tongan women in Tonga remains bleak and we, Tongan men should all hang our heads in collective shame.

Your coverage these last few weeks juxtaposed a number of interesting stories which tells us a lot about a society and where the future lies for Tongan women in Tonga.

Giving CEDAW the thumbs down in parliament was a no brainer. We are largely a male-dominated conservative and religious country, devout in voice but not always in deed and clinging to the remnants of a culture that’s made hypocrisy a virtue.

In his enthusiastic praise for what he called an unanimous stand by our MPs over CEDAW, my good friend Viliami Tiseli, a recent and unabashed beneficiary of CEDAW-friendly New Zealand and unlikely to go home anytime soon, failed to pick up on the single vote from Eua’s MP, Sunia Fili and the unusual but noteworthy abstentions of what I would have termed the more progressive elements in the House.

Interestingly, two of these progressives were responsible for tabling the issue in the first place and even attempted to avoid having the House to vote on it. Another one is now promoted to Cabinet.
Your other story on the fasting of one of the leading lights of the women’s rights movement quoted her as calling for the first commoner PM to be replaced – and by whom? Not a woman, not a commoner or a known progressive supporter of change but retreated to the traditional male conservative power bloc. How progressive is that!

In an unrelated story, Dr Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino is featured in your pages as a successful mother and scientist of international class out of Australia and there are many Tongan women of this calibre all over the world. To illustrate how far and how much more difficult it would be for women in Tonga to survive and make it on their own, can you imagine Dr Kaitu’u-Lino or other successful Tongan women like her as a member of our legislature and sitting among today’s decision-makers? This is a no brainer as well.

By my count there are at least 5 able and well-qualified women in Tonga who are more than capable of being Prime Minister if asked. They’re unlikely to put their hats in the political ring because the prevailing attitude – even from our progressives is unwelcoming, hostile even. The well-publicised views of the Tongan progressive and radical – and I’m using those terms advisedly - supporters of democracy in New Zealand on this issue mirror those of Mr Tiseli. With radicalism like this, they’d sooner have an ayatollah cleric than a Tongan woman in our legislature.

My guess is that if the recent CEDAW vote was a free and secret ballot, there would have been no abstentions and a few more enlightened votes would have gone the other way as well but there’s something about a roomful of powerful Tongan men. More power to Sunia Fili. I took a long distance ‘straw poll’ of the partners of our all male legislature on this issue and it was a no brainer as well - and overwhelmingly so. Clearly we’ve got the wrong gender in the House. - Sefita Hau‘oli, Auckland, New Zealand

Tonga isolates itself by not ratifying CEDAW - ‘Ahongalu Fusimalohi
HAVING read through the various debates on CEDAW something comes to mind.

Why is it that we cannot be a signatory to the CEDAW convention simply to support the global movement against cultures that discriminates against women. By this I mean, we are supporting the global movement against countries whose culture allows the purchasing of young women (as young as12 years old) and depending on the bridal price. Such prices can range between one cattle to four or one whale tooth to three again depending on which tribe the young women comes from.

In some cultures, women are required to work in the plantation and cook but eat last, while men eat first and leave what is left over for the women. Some cultures, women are considered objects rather than subjects. As objects, men are allowed three or four women at a time all of which depends on the riches of men. But in hindsight, although acceptable in such culture for men to have more than one wife, women are treated with such inhumane and barbaric behavior that are deemed acceptable.

On the other hand, where the CEDAW convention conflicts with issues that would prove unacceptable to the Tongan culture such as land rights, hereditary rights, gay rights etc, etc I don’t think Tonga needs to ratify the convention. As a signatory to the convention we are only supporting the global movement against cultures that discriminates against women in such a horrendous manner. But it seems to me, that we don’t have to ratify it because of certain elements that conflicts with our own culture.

If we had a convention that satisfies all countries in the world, that would be a fallacy. But we can at least agree to certain fragments of a convention thus encompassing our global support to a cause that is just, minus those segments that are privy to our local culture and customs. As you can see from the above examples, I simply concentrate in the differing cultures of the global community, rather than the social and economic problems of women, which I believe is the responsibility of each country.

If I am correct on what I have read, the PM in Parliament states that if the world doesn’t accept our decision, then so be it. I contend this very statement. Tonga should always be seen to align itself with the international community at all times and where possible. We must remember that the world can do without Tonga, but Tonga cannot do without the world. Hence we must think globally, but act locally when making fundamental decisions of such magnitude that can come back to haunt us in future. - ‘Ahongalu Fusimalohi, Ma‘ufanga, Tongatapu

CEDAW campaigner calls for Sex Strike - Sione A Mokofisi
I thank Viliami Tiseli and Sefita Hao’uli for their candid participation in debating the plight of Tongan women in the “arena of ideas.” The CEDAW treaty only magnified how women are still discriminated against in 21st Century Tonga.

As unpopular as the headline above might be, we cannot deny that our public debate raises awareness and questions we Tongans must come to grip with sooner or later. We cannot stick our heads in the sand, like the Good Old Boys Club in the House, and wished the issue to go away.

Journalists like Mr. Hao’uli and myself will not allow the debate on the immoral and illegal treatment of Tongan women to go away. Unlike Mr. Tiseli, we must critically evaluate what the male-dominant politicians and government officials are force-feeding the public with.

I have 2 very simple solutions:

(1) Since Tongan men believe it is their “God-given right” to own land but women are denied the same right, what if women decided in unison to abstain from sex until the “hereditary tax allotment” law is changed?

After all, it is women’s “God-given right” to decide with whom, and when they want to make love. There is no law which will sentence a woman to prison for abstaining from sex. Husbands have the same rights. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” isn’t it?

Sadly, I fear for the current rampant domestic violent crimes against women will only increase. Male-dominant church leaders will call the idea the work of Satan, of course. But I call this law “immoral” and “discriminatory” to women, and not the teachings of the Savior.

One class of citizens is denied landownership while another class is entitled to it. It’s a discriminatory feudalism system that holds women in “bondage” in a modern democratic, and capitalist society.

(2) The “hereditary tax allotment” law can easily be amended: Every 16-year-old females can also be entitled to the same rights as 16-year-old males have. Nobody has to give up any lands, but from this point forward, women will have the same legal rights to petition for landownership.

Land is the economic base of Tonga, an agricultural island nation. Discriminating against women in landownership keeps them “powerless” in the modern Tongan economy.

And Tongan men would always want the status quo to remain because they benefit economically from it, and their way of keeping Tongan women on a leash. Unfortunately, the aggregate economic value to society is lacking the positive contributions from half of the Tongan population. - Sione A Mokofisi, Salt Lake City Utah, USA

Fakama hono tuli ‘o e kakai tangata ki tu‘a - S. Lutui
Fakamolemole pe ‘e lava ‘o to’o atu ‘a e fo’i tohi ko ‘eni mei he peesi talanga (letter and comments) ‘a e website Matangi Tonga. ‘Oku ou tui ‘oku tuku mai ‘e he tokotaha ni ha fa’ahinga fakakaukau ‘oku ‘ikai fe’unga ia mo e ‘ulungaanga faka-Tonga.

‘Oku ou poupou pe ki he fakakaukau ki hono ta’ofi ‘a e ngaue’aki e CEDAW ka ‘o kapau te tau pehe ‘e fai ‘e he kakai fefine ‘a e fakakaukau ko ‘eni ke solova ‘aki e palopalema ko ‘eni ‘e fu’u ta’emalava ia pea ‘oku ‘ikai ha ‘aku tui ‘e tu’u hake ha taha fefine ‘o uki ‘a e fakakaukau ko ‘eni koe ‘uhinga koe ‘ulungaanga ‘etau nofo faka-tonga

‘Oku ou tui ‘oku tau’ataina pe ke ‘omai ha fakakaukau, tau pehe kapau ‘e pehee… ka koe fakakaukau ko ‘eni ‘oku fu’u ta’efe’unga ia. Pea telia na’a tanumia ‘a hotau anga fakafonua ha pehe ‘e kakai fefine ia ke fakahoko ‘a e fakakaukau ko ‘eni kuo fokotu’u mai ‘e Sione Mokofisi pea ‘oku tau tui ‘oku fakapulou’i he fakakaukau ni ia ‘e konga maama lahi faka’ulia.

Faka’apa’apa Atu - S. Lutui, Nuku‘alofa, Tonga

Tonga's land laws maximize land distribution - Daniel K Fale
WOMEN have all the rights that men have in Tonga and even more! No where in the world do women enjoy such privileges of high rank and respect as in the Kingdom of Tonga. From family circles to political arenas and academia, women have had equal opportunity and even given special treatment just for the simple fact of being a woman and I have lived my life witnessing this very fact first hand.

However, for a stubborn few, there seems to be two main hangups. First, domestic violence, and second, land right issues. It is wrong to judge Tonga and say that Tongan society condones violence against women. The fact that domestic violence happens is unfortunate but does not reflect the notion that Tongan society accepts this type of behaviour, and this is proven by the fact that already those responsible for these violent crimes against women are currently in prison serving in many cases life long prison sentences. I also wonder how many of these domestic violence crimes involved alcohol, and I would not be surprised if all of them did involve alcohol abuse. The bottom line is, that in Tonga violence against women (or anyone else) is a serious crime and you will go to prison for such a crime!

Women have the same right to land as men do in Tonga! Tonga is the only country in the world, that practices the concept taught by Jesus in the bible (Mark 10: 7-8) “a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so they are no more twain, but one flesh.” Tongan land laws do not consider a married man and his wife as separate entities but as one entity. This is proven by the fact that when a land owner dies, his wife is the legal land owner until her death or she re-marries, and only then does land pass to the eldest son. This practice is also an effective and efficient way of spreading Tonga’s scarce commodity of land. If women were to own land and married a male land owner this gives them a double portion and displaces not only another male but also his wife and family of owning a piece of land which could be their only means of livelihood. A good number of families, husbands and wives would become disenfranchised from land ownership if this proposed method was practiced.

Tongan law also provides provisions for unmarried daughters to have rights to their father’s land until they get married, and there are also many other laws ensuring that women are not left without a means to provide themselves when they are windowed. So not only is the Tongan law efficient in maximizing number of owners, but also effective in providing all Tongans, men and women, with a little inheritance of Tonga’s most scarce commodity of land. Tonga’s land laws are not discriminating against women but should be viewed as the perfect way to maximize land distribution and use of a scarce commodity.

Mr. Mokofisi and Mr. Hauoli have weak arguments and the often mentioning of “no brainers” make me think they have no brain, especially when taking into consideration the true measuring stick of Christian nation such as Tonga, which is the bible. Mr. Ahongalu Fusimalohi, is the only one with a strong argument, especially from the global perspective of Tonga’s place in the world and how Tonga could be politically correct on a global level. However, I still find it commendable that parliament took a stand against potential threats to Christian doctrines such as the potential of CEDAW to opening a door for same-sex marriage. Having said this, and despite my own awareness of my many short-comings as a Christian (because I do have many), I would rather please God and hopefully have Him on my side, than please the whole world when considering such issues.- Daniel K Fale, Nuku‘alofa, Tonga