No domestic violence law currently exists in Kiribati. With domestic assault not recognised as a specific crime, general assault laws are used, however such cases are very rarely prosecuted according to the Attorney General's Office (Key informant interview, lawyer from AGO, 6 September 2008). In a United Nations paper on Good Practices in Legislation on Violence Against Women: A Pacific Islands Regional Perspective, Jalal (2008) explains that despite efforts by women's NGOs there has been minimal legislative change in the area of domestic violence. Some of the main issues she raises are:
- Domestic violence is not recognized as a crime and therefore general assault laws are used;
- Police and court officials are often unsympathetic to survivors of partner violence and do not encourage legal solutions;
- The victim is responsible for laying and pursing charges; there is a consistent focus on reconciliation.
- Non-molestation orders and protective injunctions can only be made by married women; not defacto wives or girlfriends. They are made sparingly and inconsistently, and they are difficult to enforce, partially because there is no legislation setting out clear guidelines.
- Courts usually refuse to imprison a "breadwinner" even when a further crime is committed.
All Pacific Island countries that are parties to CEDAW, including Kiribati, are required by article 2(f) to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against women. However, according to Jalal (2008) so far, most countries in our region are in breach of Article 2(f). As well, States that have signed CRC have an obligation to protect children against forms of abuse.
Some legal issues related to violence against women remain in Kiribati. While there is no specific language regarding marital rape, non-consensual sexual intercourse is rape, regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. This has been the case since at least 1965. Section 128 of the Penal Code provides as follows:
128. Definition of rape
Any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of the felony termed rape.
However, despite this legislation which would consider rape within marriage a crime, such prosecutions are rare, and one police officer noted that he was not aware of any such prosecution during his fourteen years service as a police officer in Kiribati. It is apparent from the study that marital rape is common, but rarely would any married women think of reporting this crime to the police.
Source of Information
Response of the Government of Kiribati to the questionnaire on violence against women, June 2009