Women fight back

The number of requests this year by women for protection orders from the court suggests domestic violence could be on the upswing in RMI. But improved access to legal protection may account for the upsurge in women defending themselves through the court. “Increased awareness among women about domestic violence and their right to access legal services could very well be the reason for the increased protection orders being sought,” said Kathryn Relang, director of the national women’s group WUTMI. She doesn’t think there is an increase in violence because it’s always been high in RMI. “According to studies, there was always a high prevalence of domestic violence,” she said.

Five complaints of abuse by husbands or boyfriends were filed with the High Court in the first three months of 2016, a rate that if it continues would exceed last year’s 10 violence complaints — which set a record.

There were nine requests for what is known as a “temporary protection order” in 2014, none in 2013 and only two in 2012. The High Court has streamlined the process so that a victim of abuse can request protection without need of engaging a lawyer —simply by filling out an application form at the High Court — although some women do get an attorney to file the motion for them. Relang also praised Micronesian Legal Services in RMI because the attorneys view “domestic violence as a serious issue against human rights, and, in a way, opened the doors to protect these women.”

Read more about this in the April 15, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.