Human rights in Tuvalu

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Main article: Tuvalu

Tuvalu is a small island nation in the South Pacific. The population at the 2012 census was 10,837 (2012 Population & Housing Census Preliminary Analytical Report). [1] Tuvalu has a written constitution which includes a statement of rights influenced by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.[2] While most human rights in Tuvalu are respected, areas of concern include women’s rights and freedom of belief, as well as diminishing access to human rights in the face of global warming.


The Constitution of Tuvalu states that it is "the supreme law of Tuvalu" and that "all other laws shall be interpreted and applied subject to this Constitution"; it sets out the Principles of the Bill of Rights and the Protection of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.[3][4]

International treaties[edit]

Tuvalu became one of the smallest members of the United Nations on 5 September 2000.[5] It has ratified two of the nine core human rights treaties - The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[6] During its Universal Period Review in December 2008, Tuvalu accepted recommendations to ratify human rights treaties to which it is not yet a party, yet it refused to amend domestic law in order to be in compliance with CEDAW.[7]

Women’s rights[edit]

Main article: Women in Tuvalu

Tuvalu acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1999, however it has not been implemented into Tuvalu’s national legal system.[6]

Tuvalu law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, and place of origin, with no mention of gender. In 2005 the High Court of Tuvalu held that this omission was deliberate, therefore there is no constitutional protection against sex discrimination.[8] Domestic violence is a problem in Tuvalu, with a 2007 demographic and health survey conducted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community reporting that approximately 47 percent of the women surveyed had experienced some type of violence in their lifetime.[8] Police have been criticised for seeking to address violence against women using traditional and customary methods of reconciliation rather than criminal prosecution.[8]

Sexual minorities[edit]

Main article: LGBT rights in Tuvalu

While sodomy is illegal in Tuvalu and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, this law has not been used to prosecute citizens in recent years, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is not common.[8]

Global warming[edit]

As it is a low lying island, it has been predicted that Tuvalu will be the first nation to be wiped out due to global warming.[9] The impact of global warming is curtailing some of the human rights of Tuvalu’s citizens including the right to life and the right to health.[9] If Tuvalu is able to establish these human rights violations, it may be able to seek injunctive relief to prevent States from continuing to contribute to global warming through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Those seeking to leave the island due to global warming do not fit the legal definition of a ‘refugee’, as set out in the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Thus as current international law stands, Tuvaluans seeking to escape the effects of global warming are not privy to the extensive legal protections offered to those who do fulfil the definition of refugee.[9]

National human rights institution[edit]

Tuvalu lacks a national human rights institution, and most enquiries from the public relating to human rights are received by the Tuvalu National Council of Women (TNCW)’s Legal Rights Training Officer and the Office of the People’s Lawyer.[6] Both NGOs and Youth Groups alike run human rights workshops to inform their respective audiences of their rights.[6]

Freedom of belief[edit]

According to the 2008 Universal Periodic Review, the People’s Lawyer’s Office has received complaints from religious organizations concerned by limitations on their activities in the outer islands.[6] In 2009 the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu confirmed the freedom of religious organisations to carry out their activities in a case that considered the freedoms of religion, expression and association that are set out in the Constitution of Tuvalu against the values of Tuvaluan culture and social stability that are also referred to in the Constitution.


  1. ^ "Tuvalu: Millennium Development Goal Acceleration Framework - Improving Quality of Education". Ministry of Education and Sports, and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development from the Government of Tuvalu; and the United Nations System in the Pacific Islands. April 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Farran, Sue. "Human Rights in the Pacific Region - Challenges and Solutions" LAWASIA Journal (2005) at p. 41.
  3. ^ "PACLII". The Constitution of Tuvalu. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Tuvalu Islands". The Constitution of Tuvalu. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Member States of the United Nations
  6. ^ a b c d e Universal Periodic Review: Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Tuvalu A/HRC/WG.6/3/TUV/1 (12 September 2008), para 29, 46-47, 40, 41, 48-49.
  7. ^ UPR Recommendations
  8. ^ a b c d 2010 Human Rights Reports: Tuvalu (US State Department).
  9. ^ a b c Duong, Tiffany T.V. "When Islands Drown: The Plight of "Climate Change Refugees" and Recourse to International Human Rights Law" University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law Vol.31 Issue 4

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