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Thursday 24 March 2016 | Published in Regional


VANUATU – Hundreds of people in Vanuatu’s capital have taken part in a march to address violence against women.

The march was organised following the abduction and assault of tourism worker Florence Lengkon, who was allegedly abducted and beaten for critical comments she posted on social media about the conduct of taxi and bus drivers at Port Vila’s wharf.

Merelyn Tahi, from the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, said 600 people marched together.

“There was a lot of interest from a lot of people from the private sector, NGOs, government and other people,” she said.

“The fact that the march was on made some people think and start considering what we should do about this issue.”

The demonstrators marched to parliament house where they were met by some MPs, including the Justice Minister.

Tahi said the issue of violence at the wharf has been simmering for a long time.

“But I suppose the matter is – why did they pick on a female to bash up, to let go of their frustration?”

“I didn’t look at her comments on Facebook, some people said there were some comments maybe worse than what she said, and they picked on a female.”

Tahi also said that even though there are no women in Vanuatu’s parliament, some politicians are listening.

“Actually there are some MPs who are gender-sensitised.”

She hoped the march would become a turning point in efforts to combat gender inequality and violence against women.

The Daily Digest reports that in Port Vila, the protesters marched from the seafront to Parliament House, currently in session, where they were met by MPs from both the government and the opposition.

A woman taking part in the protest, Lora Lini, said they hoped the march sent a strong message.

“We hope that this march is going to put the message through to all those that are affected and especially to those that are suffering from this violence and we hope that this message is sent home through this march, thank you.”

At the parliament, Florence Lengkon presented a petition demanding stronger action against gender-based violence to Minister for Justice Ronald Warsal.

The parliament subsequently passed a motion to adopt Commonwealth parliamentary procedure and allow the petition to be presented, and in a first for the country, the petition was read out inside Parliament.