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Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

It is only fifteen years ago that we natives of the Solomon Islands have started to involve ourselves in the making of our laws and during these fifteen years only one woman served for two years in our legislature. Solomon Islands law, as I see it today, relates to our women in our society in two ways:

1) traditional and modern practices and attitudes which affect us in our daily lives and dealings. These are enforced by local courts applying customary law which of course, like English Common Law is susceptible to change and may be invented anew.

2) written laws which derive from British laws and which can be modified by our legislature.

The traditional and customary practices and attitudes

Ninety percent of our female population still live in the rural areas. These women suffer much from these traditional customary practices and attitudes of our men, as shown by our politicians when debating laws which relate to women - women come second to land in the value of property to men.

In some of the islands this is very true especially in the patriarchal societies. In Ysabel, my home island, the women have a much higher position in our society and they enjoy a much more powerful influence in land dealings and the guardianship of children. But the modern and foreign influences are somehow shadowing our women in some good customs, for example those on land dealing. This is due to lack of education, the dominance of men in our dealings with foreigners, and the lack of presence of our women in the legislature. So, although by custom women should have these powers, we seem to be losing them, although our menfolk keep telling us that they are trying to strengthen custom.

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A simple example of the practices and attitudes which are brought in by foreigners is shown in our urban areas and even written in simple rules like General Orders, which govern public servants. Married women officers are denied the official housing, even if they are senior, because their husbands, however limited their resources, must house them, unless government posts the women away from their husband's home. There are other provisions denying them such privileges which would encourage our women's position and role in the modern society. I think provisions should have been made in the rules for our progress.

Black and white photograph of farmers.

Papua New Guinea is attempting to make the laws more suitable to the conditions and needs of the country