Human rights in Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign country in the South West Pacific consisting of many islands with a population of 561,231 (2013). It became self-governing from the United Kingdom in 1976 after three previous attempts at forming a Constitution. The Constitution of Solomon Islands was enacted in 1978. This however led to conflicts between cultures and armed conflict in the late 1990s forced a review of the 1978 Constitution. This review resulted in the Federal Constitution of the Solomon Islands Bill 2004 (SI) and various other amendments, the Human Rights Chapter however remained unchanged.
As per The Constitution of Solomon Islands Statutory Instruments Chapter II outlines the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual:
|3||Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual|
|4||Protection of Right to Life|
|5||Protection of Right to Personal Liberty|
|6||Protection from Slavery and Forced Labour|
|7||Protection from Inhumane Treatment|
|8||Protection from Deprivation of Property|
|9||Protection for Privacy of Home and other Property|
|10||Provisions to secure Protection of Law|
|11||Protection of Freedom of Conscience|
|12||Protection of Freedom of Expression|
|13||Protection of Freedom of Assembly and Association|
|14||Protection of Freedom of Movement|
|15||Protection from Discrimination of Grounds of Race Etc.|
|16||Provisions for periods of Public Emergency|
|17||Compensation for Contravention of Rights and Freedoms|
|18||Enforcement of Protective Provisions|
|19||Interpretations and Savings|
However, there are Human Rights concerns and issues in regards to education, water, sanitation, women and persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)
Solomon Islands joined the United Nations in 1978. It is party to four of the nine core human rights treaties - the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In May 2011, Solomon Islands issued a standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures.
In a 2011, the UN released a UPR which outlined the current availability of education as being limited for the poor island state. Despite the government's 2010 policy statement, which committed to ensuring all Solomon Islanders have equal access to quality education, this is an ongoing issue that is still being addressed. Statistics show that overall primary attendance rate at 65.4%, this increased in urban areas to 72%.
Because of the ‘Fee Free Primary Education’ policy of the government, primary education is free and financed by overseas donors. However it is not compulsory. Article 15 of ICESCR requires compulsory primary education, as does article 28 of the CRC. In the report's recommends that basic primary quality education should be compulsory.
There is also limited access to education for children with disabilities. This is a cultural and social issue as well as a human rights concern. The traditional view is that persons with disabilities are cared for and looked after, therefore not required or expected to be an active part in the community. This charitable approach has led to the majority of children with disabilities having no real access to education. Following the Government's 2010 policy, the UPR urges the government to give this the highest priority to give children equal opportunity.
Another issue integrated to this is the lack of certified teachers who do not take interest in what they are doing. In a 2010 UNICEF mid-term report on education it was estimated that 50% of teachers in the Solomon Islands are unqualified. The report recommends that the government allocate more of its budget on developing an adequate infrastructure such as training professional teachers, having more schools and classrooms as well as ensuring teachers are paid on time.
Article 28 1(b) of the CRC requires governments to encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, available and accessible to every child, and to take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need. In a 2006-2007 survey, 29 out of every 100 children (12–18 years old) attended secondary school. This figure was worse in rural areas and people surveyed stated that secondary school fees were too expensive for families. The UPR report recommended increasing accessibility to secondary school.
Water and sanitation
The issue of safe drinking water is one that affects 355,000 Solomon Islanders, although fresh water is available year-round in some places, the islands often suffer from severe water shortage. Water-borne disease and lack of proper sanitation is a major risk and concerned locals have commented that sickness caused from unsafe drinking water was preventing children from attending school. Around half of primary schools have access to safe drinking water. Article 15 ICESCR sets out the criteria for the full enjoyment of the right to water including availability, quality and accessibility.
In Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands, there are many overcrowded slums as a result of people moving to urban areas in search of opportunities. There was not adequate infrastructure to deal with the influx of inhabitants during the 1970s and 1980s. This has resulted in the unavailability of clean water, leaving residents faced with a long and sometimes dangerous journey to find it. These people often opt instead to wash clothes, dishes and themselves in dirty water, putting them at risk of disease.:5
The right to sanitation is an integral part of the right to an adequate standard of living, defined in Article 11(1) of the ICESCR. As well as relating to right to health, housing and water, the UN CRC recognizes the right for access to sanitation. According to a 2009 survey of Honiara, only a quarter of residents had adequate toilet facilities. Around 55% relieved themselves either in the sea, a river, or nearby toilets.
Although the Solomon Islands are party to CEDAW, women's rights and access to adequate sanitation are limited. Women are not treated equally to men as witnessed by Amnesty International which reported they witnessed 100 young women and girls as well as 2 elderly men collect water from a broken pipe. When asked why no men were collecting the water, they replied that the men were drunk or playing sports. This was also found in another slum where the men were also high on drugs.:8
The lack of adequate water supply has led to rise of violence against women have to walk further and more often to get water or to go toilet, bathe or to obtain drinking water. This is an issue especially in Honiara's slums where men attack women either physically or sexually making them too afraid to use communal toilets at night. Rape and other abuse is generally unreported to police as women and girls fear reprisals from their attackers.:10 The government has acknowledged the ongoing violence towards women and in 2010 approved a national policy to eliminate violence against women. This was a result of lobbying by women's groups.
Right to privacy
The lack of a women's right to privacy in Solomon Islands is more prevalent in the slums with shared bathing, washing and toilets facilities. There are reports of not being able to wash themselves adequately and being spied on or whistled at. A lack of privacy is demeaning and embarrassing.:12
Right to housing
When the issue of inadequate housing and facilities especially regarding the slums was broached to government officials, they explained it was the fault of the people and not of the government. The slums sit mostly on Honiara City Council Land, which the ministry of land, housing and survey is responsible for. This issue of state negligence has not been resolved.:14
- British Solomon Islands Order 1960 (UK), British Solomon Islands Order 1970 (UK), British Solomon Islands Order 1974 (UK),
- "Breaking the Mould : Constitutional Review in Solomon Islands" (PDF). Victoria.ac.nz. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
- "Constitution 1978". Paclii.org. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
- "Treaty bodies Treaties". Tbinternet.ohchr.org. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
- "Standing Invitations". Archived from the original on March 30, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
- "Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Solomon Islands" (PDF). Franciscansinternational.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
- National Coalition for Reform and Advancement (NCRA) Government Policy Statement, Office of the Prime Minister, Honiara, October 2010, item 4.2.5, p 13.
- Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007, item 2.8.1, p28.
- Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Forum Disability Ministers‟ Meeting, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, October 2009, p5
- UNICEF Pacific Education Programme, Mid Term Review: Ensuring Children‟s Rights to, in, through Education, 2010, p8
- Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007 pg 29 and 30
- AusAID project
- “Where is the dignity in that?” Women in Solomon Islands Slums denied sanitation and safety (September 2011) Amnesty International.
- World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: 2010 update p.12