1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Tonga's Constitution, the oldest in the Pacific, provides for the protection of certain fundamental rights and freedoms. International observers acknowledged that the 2017 elections were generally credible, transparent and inclusive. However, there is no full equality of suffrage and not all the seats of the parliament are directly elected. This is not in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, and other international standards. The level of domestic violence remains a critical human rights issue in Tonga and has been identified by the government as a major impediment to gender equality. Necessary measures have to be taken to effectively implement provisions of the national Family Protection Act of 2013, which recognises domestic violence as a legal offence and provides legal framework for preventing domestic violence. In 2019, the government launched its first gender statistics publication titled ‘Gender Equality: Where do we stand?’ along with the National Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Tonga Policy and Strategic Plan of Action 2019-2025, and the Gender Mainstreaming Handbook. Since 2019, Ministry of Internal Affairs Woman Affairs Division, together with civil society and partners, is leading on developing Tonga's National Service Delivery Protocol for Responding to Gender Based Violence.
While there is no discriminatory legislation concerning participation of women in politics, the traditional system and cultural factors limit participation of women in political processes and local government. Women also face challenges concerning the full enjoyment of economic rights, particularly inheritance and land rights. Ratification of CEDAW by Tonga remains stalled. The legal status of same-sex relationships is not recognised in Tonga and consenting same-sex relationships between adults remain criminalised by the law (there are no reports of the law enforcement). The level of ratification of key Human Rights Conventions remains low. A de facto moratorium on the application of the death penalty is in place since 1982.
2. EU action - key focus areas: EU actions focus, inter alia, on supporting the ratification of or accession to the remaining core Human Rights Conventions, promoting gender equality and women rights and supporting CSOs engagement with the Government of Tonga on policy dialogue and governance.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The EU bilateral engagement continues to focus on issues discussed in the first high-level Enhanced Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement in Nuku'alofa in April 2017. In the area of human rights, the EU urged Tonga to abolish the death penalty, to ratify (or accede to) the Rome Statute and core Human Rights Conventions, and to decriminalise same sex relations. The EU carried out demarches and outreach activities inviting Tonga to support human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level.
In the Pacific region, including Tonga, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined. The EU delegation for the Pacific will continue to actively promote climate change awareness.
4. EU financial engagement: Tonga is covered under a regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific, with the purpose of ensuring a more structured and effective dialogue with CSOs, as well as to intensify the linkages between CSOs, local authorities and the government. EU financial support was devoted to capacity building of CSOs, strengthening CSOs role on advocacy towards gender equality and women's rights and addressing the problem of domestic violence and its impact on families and the development of the society. In November 2018, a Mapping Report on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) was launched. The conclusions of this mapping provided a range of recommendations aiming at empowerment of the civil society, share information, develop synergies and for the government to consider a CSO project management unit as centralised repository.
The Family Protection Act 2013 became the first legislation to specifically address domestic violence in Tonga. The ‘Experiences and Needs of Children and Children with Disability in Tonga’' project, aimed at advancement of children's rights, contributed to understanding violence against children and children with disability in Tonga and to improving conditions for children by providing an action-oriented study to serve as a baseline for the government, civil society and the community to develop and implement immediate and long term protection and prevention measures against violence on children. A number of recommendations have been issued, ranging from development of risks and protective factors framework to assessing the long and short term effects of violence on the children; the need for national policies and laws to address violence against children; strengthening rights of children in decision making processes; surveys for awareness and understanding of issue of violence against children in schools; calling the Government of Tonga to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and making changes to the current domestic policies and practices.
Tonga has remained a focus country under the new regional ‘Pacific Partnership to End Violence against Women and Girls’ programme, launched in November 2018 and funded primarily by the EU with targeted support from the Australian Government and cost-sharing from UN Women. The action is implemented in partnership with the government, CSOs, communities and other partners towards transforming harmful social norms to prevent violence against women and girls, improving access to quality services for survivors of gender-based violence and monitoring and reporting on government's commitments to gender equality and elimination of violence against women and girls. The activities under the programme will address, inter alia, working with the states bodies and faith leaders on the development of a national prevention strategy; supporting technical review of the National Policy on Gender and Development 2014-2018; supporting the Women and Children Crisis Centre, supporting awareness and further implementation of the Family Protection Act 2013.
5. Multilateral context: Tonga has ratified only two of the core UN Human Rights Conventions - the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in 1972 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1955. Since these ratifications, the government of Tonga has submitted some national reports on ICERD. UPR recommendations from 2018, which Tonga accepted, include, inter alia, improvi n g record of reporting to the UN bodies, establishment of a NHRI, prioritising gender equality and adopting legislative measures to combat discrimination against women. Tonga will examine recommendations to continue efforts to ratify core international human rights treaties, particularly CEDAW, CRPD, CAT, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to introduce legislation to provide equal protection to vulnerable groups and on all grounds, including sexual orientation, and to formally abolish the death penalty. The next UPR for Tonga is expected to take place in 2023. Tonga has extended a standing invitation to the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. Tonga is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.