A research on processes used to address the physical and sexual abuse of children in Samoa : this thesis is presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree in Masters in Social Policy, Massey University
This thesis looks at traditional and statutory processes that were used to address child physical and sexual abuse in communities in Samoa. The study involved interviews with individuals from government departments, independent agencies, and groups from six villages. The methods included the review of case files of convicted cases, and legislation relevant to the abuse of children. The findings of the study indicate that child 'rights' is an issue that was perceived by participants beyond the wellbeing of the individual child. Children's rights were perceived by participants to have potential risks to collective existence and the preservation of Samoan traditional culture. Fundamental to the issue of rights was the conflict between local and state constitutions. The study found that rights were based on the country's constitution, were difficult to enforce in local communities where their own constitutions took precedent, based on customary rights and traditional social structures. The study provides some insights into traditional practices, societal structures, beliefs, values, and elements within statutory processes that make children vulnerable to abuse. The lack of clarity between the responsibilities of customary and state authorities sometimes made it unclear who was ultimately responsible for addressing crimes against children. The study pointed to the need for legislated protocols and a shared constitution between local customary and state authorities, in order to adequately address abuse. The thesis has implications for the social service sector, including judiciary processes. The thesis advocates for processes of 'justice' to make the safety and healing of children the priority, not the implementation of mechanisms.