The country has a small population of just under 10,000 so familiarity and cultural sensitivities mean victims are often reluctant to seek help.
The Director of Tuvalu's Gender Affairs Department Asita Molotii told Sally Round a Family Protection Act is now in force and efforts are now going in to enforcement and providing services for the victims.
ASITA MOLOTII: At the moment we only have maybe one or two counsellors who can actually help. Those two, you know, maybe have some relatives who are uncomfortable to talk to me. So in a very small place like that, when everybody knows each other that well, it's a very challenging work for us. So we are planning to have training for counsellors and also credit them so that they could be able to deliver the services. Including the religious leaders as well, at the moment they also deliver some kind of counselling but we want them to provide it at a professional level. So we want them to provide their skills, their knowledge and some other people including our trainers, some male trainers, that we have trained on gender sensitisation. So that we have many more people for the victims to choose who they are comfortable with.
SALLY ROUND: What would you say are the challenges that Tuvalu faces in trying to combat this problem?
AM: Yeah. Reporting these matters publicly is a challenge on its own because there is stigmatisation and people not willing for us to formally report to police. There are many many issues and confidentiality is one big huge challenge where they don't trust to even share with the counsellors and policemen. And that is why we have turned to police to actually take the lead on this domestic violence or violence against women, so we would be able to look into developing the knowledge, expertise of police officers to deal with these cases. In the early years when we tried there was only one police female officer who was not also at the domestic violence unit. But at the moment they are trying to set up the domestic violence unit within the police department so that they would be able to look into any violence against women.
SR: And are there any other cultural sensitivities around this issue which are hampering you going forward?
AM: There are lots of cultural issues, I would say, in terms of where the victim is, there could be settlements between families, there could be parents trying to agree to those cultural settings without the consent of the victim. There is a lot influence from many many different angles and you can look at it, as a Tuvaluan, I understand those consequences and the difficulties around those issues. It's very difficult, and sometimes when the victims themselves try to come out and speak about their issues, you know the families or relatives might hear and they intervene. But at the end of the day the victims are going back to their families so sometimes they just shut up or they don't want us to really work on their case. We do have a culture of silence..