The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), through the Union des Femmes Francophones d’Océanie (Union of Francophone Pacific Women), which includes French-speaking women organizations from French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, convened a meeting to discuss women’s civil rights within the framework of customary and common law, in Noumea, New Caledonia.
According to SPC, people from one of the eight Kanak nations in New Caledonia have their entitlements defined by their specific status, with specific impacts on women. Those under customary status do not have access to the common law system and the judicial systems can be confusing.
At the event, testimonies of Kanak women about adoption, divorce and domestic violence were presented to a panel of customary assessors, common law practitioners (including judges, lawyers and academics), social workers and representatives of civil society organizations. Other testimonies showed common gender inequities, as well as the difficulties women experienced while attempting to access the law.
SPC reported that the customary assessors believe traditional institutions are protective of women’s rights, but that they admitted that they are not equipped to address the reality of today’s circumstances. the event revealed that many women are unaware of their rights.