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UN to Investigate Violence Against Women in Samoa

FILE - Samoans attend church services at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Leone, American Samoa, Oct. 4, 2009. Many women in Samoa have experienced violence, according to a 2007 study.

United Nations investigators said Thursday they will examine rising levels of violence against women in Samoa for the first time after the South Pacific nation this year embarked on a national inquiry into domestic violence.

Kamala Chandrakirana, who heads the U.N. Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice, said the 10-day visit later this month was the first fact-finding mission by a U.N. human rights experts group to Samoa.

She said the group would visit the capital Apia and villages in Upolu and Savai’i to gather information about discrimination against women, including violence and women and girls.

Recorded cases rising

The mission comes after figures showed the number of recorded cases of domestic violence in the nation of about 200,000 people rising to 723 in 2015 from 200 in 2012, prompting a yearlong national inquiry.

U.N. officials have previously voiced concern that violence against women in Samoa appeared to be “socially legitimized” and accompanied by a culture of silence and impunity.

“We will be looking at all aspects of women’s life: political and public, economic and social, family and cultural life, and health and safety,” Chandrakirana said in a statement.

“We are interested in achievements and good practices in eliminating discrimination against women as well as existing gaps and challenges.”

Most women experienced abuse

Samoan authorities have acknowledged the problem since a 2007 study on domestic violence found 46 percent of women surveyed had experienced some form of partner abuse and 60 percent been physically abused by someone other than a partner.

“We need to be mindful of not putting survivors of violence in any more danger if they decide to come forward and tell us their stories,” said Samoa’s Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma when he announced the national inquiry last year.

Chandrakirana said that while in Samoa the UN team would also meet government officials, representatives of state institutions and civil society organizations, and academics.

“We are particularly interested in legislative and policy reforms undertaken in recent years and the impact on the enjoyment of human rights of women in Samoa,” she said.