I have just read the official statement from the Church Leaders regarding CEDAW. Again, while I respect their positions and their right to communicate their official positions to the wider community - I must speak up here and clarify some of the misconceptions that they have continued to communicate which are in fact incorrect:
They quoted: " ‘Oku mau fakamālō ‘i hono tokangaekina ‘e he Pule’anga ‘a e Lotu ‘o ‘ai ‘a e ngaahi fakangatangata (reservations) ki he ngaahi Kupu ko ia ‘oku felāve’i tonu mo e ngaahi kaveinga ‘oku fepaki mo e tui ‘a e Kalisitiane hangē ko ia ‘oku hā ‘i he Kupu 10(h) mo e 12(1) fekau’aki mo e fakatō tama pea mo e Kupu 16 fekau’aki mo e mali ‘a e tangata mo e tangata pea mo e fefine mo e fefine."
1. Abortion is not provided for under CEDAW. The term used under 10(h) 12(1) is "Family Planning". CEDAW talks about access to information on family planning in 10(h) and access to information and services on family planning under 12(1).
Note: While abortion is not provided for under CEDAW it is provided for under our Criminal Procedures Act - where abortion is legal where it is required to save the life of the mother.
Why are we making noise on something that is incorrect?
2. Same Sex Marriage is also not provided for under CEDAW Article 16. In fact the right of a man to marry a man is not provided for under CEDAW because this is not a convention for men it is a convention for women. Therefore this proposition by the Church Leaders is absolutely incorrect and impossible.
So what about women marrying women. Again, CEDAW is a convention that aims at getting rid of all forms of discrimination against women because of the fact that she is a woman. So there would have to be a law in Tonga that allows men to marry men and that does not allow women to marry women. This is where there would be discirmination AGAINST the woman because she is a woman.
So for example: If the laws in Tonga said man can marry a man but didn't allow a woman to marry a woman then CEDAW would be a tool to get rid of that discrimination.
In other words the laws for marriage is the same for women and men in Tonga so there is no discrimination. In fact 16(b) what Tonga has reserved on is in relation to countries where young girls are forced to marry without their consent and whenever their parents dictate.
Overall what pains my heart is when I keep seeing these misconceptions communicated over and over again without any real background work or research done. I pray to God to help those of us who are doing this work that God will continue to give us the strength and wisdom to keep on keeping on!
I believe that the misconception around abortion and same-sex marriage is just a cover-up for attacks against CEDAW. I think we need to start talking about the real fears in people, particularly men who are in high positions of power and use these powers to control the masses - the real fear is about women and women's rights overall. The real fear is about giving up male privileges. If we want to talk open and honestly let's get down to business and stop using CEDAW as an excuse for what the real fear is about.
Women & Children Crisis Centre, Tonga