IB 2019/07 Vanuatu’s Family Protection Act: Contextualisation, Resistance and Implementation
Over the past 10 years, many Pacific Island countries and territories have been amending their laws to address the issue of domestic violence. Vanuatu was the first Pacific Island country to put in place targeted legislation (Jalal 2009:3) with the passage of the Family Protection Act (the Act) in 2008. The Act was controversial, however, and took 11 years from drafting to being passed by the parliament. The purpose of the Act is to (a) preserve and promote harmonious family relationships, and (b) prevent domestic violence in all levels of society in Vanuatu. The Act is both civil and criminal: it creates a criminal offence for committing an act of domestic violence and also provides for civil protection orders (Forster 2011). Under the Act, domestic violence offenders can be sentenced for up to five years in prison or fined up to VUV100,000 (around AU1250) or both. Family protection orders can also be issued if the defendant has committed or is likely to commit an act of domestic violence against the complainant. This In Brief discusses how the legislation responds to the Vanuatu context, the resistance to its introduction and some challenges regarding its implementation.