As we are approaching the Election Day on 19 March 2020, I would like to share my concern in regards to Human Rights issues that affect the vulnerable members of the society so that any government formed after 19 March 2020 should make these rights a priority during its 4-year term. I would like to mention the rights of women, children, and people with disabilities, the elderly and minority groups. The rights of these vulnerable groups are often undermined. These groups are always silent even if they receive minimal services provided or no services at all. They perceive themselves unequal human beings based on the societies’ perceptions because even if they want to address their issues, there are limited avenues and resources that would support them effectively.
I understand that Vanuatu has done well in ratifying 5 of the core 9 Human Rights treaties. These are CEDAW, (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women), CRPD (Convention on the Rights of People with Disability), CRC (Convention on the rights of the Child), ICCPR (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights) and CAT (Convention against Torture).
I also understand there are some institutions in place that support these vulnerable groups. However, most of our villages in the rural areas and remote islands are not benefitting from these services. In most government schools in Vanuatu, teachers who teach children with special needs are not provided, health facilities and infrastructure designs and developments do not gather for people with special needs and elderly people. Hospitals in the remote areas lack facilities and expertise to deliver the services. Pregnant women for example must travel to the urban areas to receive special medical attention when there is complications in giving birth or when their child is seriously ill.
Our laws that protect people’s rights are not enforced. Some laws have conflict with our custom practices and cultures. In most societies around Vanuatu, the custom of bride price in exchange for women violates women’s rights. Men think they own women, like they own anything they buy from shops. Thus women become victims of domestic violence. On the other hand, democratic governments, somehow only represent the majority group in the society. The voice of people in the minority groups are overlooked. It is during such times in any countries that these group of people would be given significance because their votes would count to make a difference. After casting their votes, they would be forgotten until the next general election.
I therefore urge all political parties that will be elected for the next legislature to seriously consider our vulnerable groups. They are equal human beings and they deserve better. May the people chose right and may the best candidates win.
USP, Laucala Campus