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Tonga

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison. The law recognizes spousal rape. The law makes domestic violence a crime punishable by a maximum of 12 months in prison, a fine of Tongan pa’anga (TOP) 2,000 ($860), or both. Repeat offenders face a maximum of three years in prison or a maximum fine of TOP 10,000 ($4,300). The law provides for protection from domestic violence, including protection orders; clarifies the duties of police; and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of domestic-violence victims.

Police investigated reported rape cases, and the government prosecuted these cases under the law. In February, for example, two male teenagers were sentenced to seven and eight years, respectively, for raping a woman. The police domestic-violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault, and once filed, domestic-violence cases cannot be withdrawn and must proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. The Ministry of Police, local communities, churches, youth groups, other nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC) have conducted more than 12 training programs for government agencies and civil society groups on issues such as human rights, child abuse, sexual harassment, violence against women, and domestic violence.

As of June, 95 percent of the total cases received by the WCCC in 2019 were victims of domestic violence. Police worked with the National Center for Women and Children as well as with the WCCC to provide shelter for abused women and girls and boys younger than 14 years. Both centers operated a safe house for victims. The WCCC reported a decline in sexual abuse cases involving teenagers ages 14 to 16.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a crime under the law, but physical sexual assault can be prosecuted as indecent assault. Complaints received by the police domestic-violence unit indicated that sexual harassment of women is a common problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Inheritance laws, especially those concerned with land, discriminate against women. Women can lease land, but inheritance rights pass through male heirs only; a male child born out of wedlock has precedence over the deceased’s widow or daughter. If there are no male relatives, a widow is entitled to remain on her husband’s land as long as she does not remarry and remains celibate. The inheritance and land rights laws also reduced women’s ability to access credit and to own and operate businesses.

Discrimination against women with respect to employment and wages occurred (see section 7.d.).

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sodomy is listed as a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but there were no reports of prosecutions under this provision for consensual sexual conduct between adults. No law specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or addresses hate crimes. No criminal-justice mechanisms exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex individuals. Society accepted a subculture of transgender dress and behavior, and a prominent NGO’s annual festival highlighted transgender identities. Social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of incidents of violence or discrimination.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future