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Regional News

Pohnpei Legislature passes Domestic Issues Act

POHNPEI (Kaselelhie Press/Pacnews) — Nine years after it was first introduced, the Pohnpei State Legislature in the Federated States of Micronesia unanimously passed the nation’s domestic violence legislation, known as the Domestic Issues Act.

The new legislation provides mechanisms and procedures to deal with incidents of domestic violence.

In Oct. 2014, a family health and safety report on the prevalence of violence against women funded by Australian Aid and the United Nations Population Fund, found that in the FSM, nearly 1/3 of women had suffered physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner at least once in their life time. 24 percent of women had suffered that type of abuse within the 12 months immediately preceding the study.

The report did not cover the prevalence of domestic violence against males. While anecdotally those numbers are not as high as the numbers of women who are victims, but it definitely does happen in Pohnpei.

At press time, Gov. Marcelo Peterson had not yet signed the Act into law. He was waiting for feedback from his cabinet members but it seems to be nearly a foregone conclusion that he would do so.

“The government of Pohnpei State recognizes that families are the foundation of the structures of our communities, and that they form the core of our existence as people,” the final committee report on the bill said.

“Acceptance of family values and recognition of the obligations of family members to honor and respect each other lay at the heart of the Constitution and in the very soul of our traditions,” said the report.

“Before sending the bill back to the floor with its recommendation to pass it, the committee submitted proposed changes. It said that it felt that the definition of the section on child discipline could lead to an inaccurate and incorrect application of the law. It said that it changed that definition to be more in line with the Constitution and Pohnpeian traditions.

The committee also added a “three-strike” requiring mandatory imprisonment and possible fines after a third conviction for domestic violence within seven years.

“It is the sense of your committee that incorporating a three-strike rule into the legislation will serve as a deterrent in family violence situations…further promoting the intent…to maintain peace and promote harmony and unity within the family,” the report says.

The committee said that it had a problem with the implementation of protective orders within the Justice Department and so asked the governor to establish a task force no later than 30 days after the Act takes effect. The task force would study the concept of utilizing protective orders with family violence issues and submit a recommendation to the governor and the Legislature within six months.

The committee recommended that the sections on protective order be “reserved” and not put into effect of law until after the study has been conducted and necessary changes are made. However, what the committee passed on to the full Legislature as legislative draft 1, only kept in “reserve” the section on protective orders from other states. All of the rest of the significant wording on protective orders remained in the bill and were never removed or changed in subsequent legislative drafts before the Legislature passed the Act. If the governor signs the bill, those provisions will have the full force of the law without task force review.

The act deals with powers of police officers responding to domestic violence incidents. It covers diversion methods, probation, and revocation of diversion methods.

The markup copy of the final version of the bill including all amendments spans 30 pages.

Supporters of the bill are ecstatic that there may finally be a law to help protect victims of domestic violence that could potentially serve as a deterrent to those people who have had a tendency to abuse their family members.