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Tonga online legal aid services for survivors of domestic abuse

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The launch of the online legal aid services for gender-based violence survivors officiated by the Ministry of Justice, Ancient Tonga, Popua. 21 July 2021.

Survivors of domestic violence or gender-based violence in Tonga can now access justice with more comprehensive legal support provided online by the Tonga Family Protection Legal Aid Centre (FPLAC).

The Minister of Justice Hon. Samiu Vaipulu, Minister of Justice who launched the online portal today said, the digital platform marked a ground-breaking step forward for survivors to access justice as stipulated in the Family Protection Act 2013, which says domestic violence is a crime.

“Through the online platform and the mobile app, survivors will have access to legal information and counsels without compromising the protection of confidentiality of the cases, without being known to the perpetrators and others, regardless of their personal circumstances."

He said on this knowledge and support available to them, they will be able to make their own safety plans, access justice and move forward.

Mr Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, joined the online launch ceremony and said the pandemic, while it posed serious challenges in many aspects of our society, urged us to innovate to overcome and build back better by reaching out to vulnerable groups and make the systems more inclusive.

"The digital platform for comprehensive legal aid services to protect domestic violence and gender-based violence survivors is an exemplary initiative taken by the Centre."

Anonymous and safe

FPLAC said the online system ensures that survivors can access online legal services completely anonymously and safely, which is critically important given the stigma many survivors fear.

The UNDP Human Development index reports that more than one in three Tongan women experienced violence by intimate partner (39.6 percent). FPLAC also observed that despite strong interest in their services, stigma in local communities often prevented women from requesting information and direct assistance.

The digital platform will allow FPLAC officers to reach out to potential clients and provide remote legal counsels and referrals to other service providers within the National Referral Network, in line with the National Service Delivery Protocol.

This will be one of the first integrated legal aid services provided on digital platforms for DV and GBV survivors globally.

FPLAC

FPLAC which was established in 2018 as the first of its kind in the Pacific, provides legal aid services specifically to assist survivors of family violence.

The development of this online system for the legal aid services was supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).