In 2018, the overall human rights situation in the country remained positive. Human rights in Samoa are protected by its Constitution and legislative framework. There are however human rights’ concerns such as potential pressure on freedom of religion following amendment in June 2017 of the Constitution to transform the country from a secular to a Christian state. Concerns related to gender-based/domestic violence continue to demand attention. The 2018 National Public Inquiry into family violence in Samoa, revealed that family violence rate in Samoa appears to be higher than the global average. In general, the government is open to dialogue and remains committed to improving human rights.
A traditional system of governance co-exists with democratic process in Samoa, affecting participation of women in politics and public decision-making. While there is universal suffrage for all Samoan citizens aged 21 and over, still only chiefs of villages (matai) may contest the elections. The number of women holding matai title remains low, which constitutes a barrier to increasing number of women candidates in the elections. Women's participation in the village council decision-making is mainly indirect. Constitutional amendment, which introduced a 10 % parliamentary quota for female MPs in 2013, was activated during the 2016 elections: there are five female MPs (out of total 50 MPs) in the current Parliament.
EU Action - key focus areas: Through dialogue with the government and non-state actors in conjunction with various financial instruments, the EU has been promoting human rights, gender equality and increased participation of women in decision making.
There is a political will in Samoa to advance national action to end domestic violence. Since signing the CEDAW, legislative reform included adoption of the Family Safety Act 2013. There is a need to progress on efficient implementation of the legislation. The Ministry of Women, Communities and Social Development is tasked to oversee service provision for women and girls who have been subject to violence. The National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) identified domestic violence as a priority human rights concern. The 2018 National Public Inquiry into family violence in Samoa, carried out by NHRI, revealed that family violence rate appears to be higher than the global average: 87 % of respondents within the family setting had experienced threats of violence and 86 % had been subject to assaults. The Inquiry findings highlight that there is no part of Fa'asamoa (Samoan culture or way of life) providing for violence inside or outside family unit, however, some cultural norms contribute to the patriarchal framework, often placing women in inferior position, intensifying the gender hierarchy and bringing down the veil of silence. A majority of Samoans believe in physical violence/disciplines as a common approach for raising children. The NHRI set out a list of recommendations towards elimination of family violence including, inter alia, establishment of a Family Violence Prevention Office, National Family Violence Prevention Strategy and Communications Strategy, Family Violence Prevention Council and Taskforce.
EU bilateral political engagement: Meetings at various levels were used as a platform to promote respect for human rights and gender equality in the Pacific region including Samoa. The EU bilateral engagement followed up on issues discussed in the enhanced EU-Samoa Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, held in Apia in October 2016, where human rights and democracy issues as well as policy measures taken by the authorities were addressed. Samoa committed to continue its active engagement in the discussion of human rights issues with civil society organisations (CSOs), which were represented at the political dialogue, and the development partners. The EU invited Samoa to accede to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and invited Samoa to examine the possibility of decriminalising male homosexuality.
EU financial engagement: The EU provides support to the Samoan civil society to strengthen engagement between the civil society and the Government of Samoa in strategic planning, implementation and oversight along the key sectors of the Strategy for the Development of Samoa. Human rights and gender related issues are addressed through support to CSOs working with communities, village councils, government institutions and the NHRI in order to challenge gender stereotyping, increase public awareness of existing legal rights, as well as protection offered to victims, contributing to the reduction of violence against women and greater empowerment of women in Samoan society.
Samoa is 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 government, CSOs, communities and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls, and increase access to quality response services for survivors. The activities under the programme will support, inter alia, the implementation of key recommendations from the National Inquiry into Family Violence Report 2018; working violence prevention approach; linking Samoan partners to a regional Community of Practice that encourages knowledge sharing; assisting gender based violence survivors with better access to quality crisis response and social services, especially in remote and low-access locations around Samoa.
Multilateral context: The next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Samoa is expected in May 2021.