Intaff secretary Anne Herman, who facilitated the event, said it presented a good opportunity to learn more and openly discuss gender-based workplace violence in the Cook Islands.
“Reflection and discussion on this theme remains quite unexplored and is considered taboo to some extent.
“The objective is make sure everyone feels they are not violated in their working environment.
“The dialogue will also be beneficial to the ongoing review of the Occupational Safety and Health reform,” says Herman.
During the session Pukapuka-Nassau MP Tingika Elikana said Cook Islanders needed to get the subject out to the public.
“This is not just a domestic violence issue, it’s a productivity issue and it’s a macro - economic issue.
“If people stay home from work as a result of domestic violence, their productivity and ability to reach their goals is limited.”
As a former HOM for the Ministry of Justice and the former Solicitor General, Elikana says this issue will have an impact.
“We need to take it away from domestic violence and take it to another platform and say, it is a national issue in terms of economic growth and productivity, and move it to that platform that will elevate that need to address domestic violence.
He says another big concern is actually defining domestic violence, harassment and sexual harassment.
“There are standards we are caught up in, the subjective and/or the objective standards, which is the difficulty with these cases in court.
With his preference to take the objective view, Elikana notes: “we need in our policies and laws to look at which standards we need to apply.
As for “culture” being used as an excuse for domestic violence, Elikana says, “using culture as an excuse is rubbish.”
“The fact that we have different resident ethnic groups, culture should not be manipulated as an excuse.”
“As a nation we need to set the standards and then following that (should be) an educational programme which actually educates our people as to the required standard, and what is acceptable conduct in the work place.”
The panel was made up of representatives of the public and private sectors, civil society and organisations involved in social welfare work.