Tuvalu News


By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (March 6, 2002 Agence France-Presse)---Paradise might not exist but American diplomats have come close enough to identifying a place with a perfect human rights record -- where even the occasional jail inmate is contented.

The U.S. State Department's country-by-country reports on human rights struggles to find a negative word about Tuvalu, a nation of 10,000 people living on a string of atolls north of Fiji.

The report, released in Washington this week, says Tuvalu has an independent judiciary, there were no killings, no disappearances, no torture and no refugee has ever set foot there.

[SEE: U.S. Department of State: Tuvalu: Human Rights Report 2001]

Although there is no independent media, the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and assembly and there is freedom of religion.

"Violence against women is rare. Domestic violence is rising, but it is still relatively infrequent and has not become a source of societal concern. There is little public discussion of the problem."

Prostitution is illegal and there have been no reports of child abuse.

"The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the society is generally egalitarian; however, social behavior, as determined by custom and tradition (considered as important as the law), is ensured by village elders, and leads to some social discrimination," the report says, clearly struggling to find a problem to report on.

"Women traditionally occupy a subordinate role, with limits on their job opportunities."

Traditional leaders assert a right to corporal punishment, but it is seldom invoked.

"There are two prison facilities. One consists of several holding cells near the airport; the other is at the back of the police station. It is rare for a prisoner to spend as long as a week in a cell; more commonly, a person is incarcerated overnight because of drunkenness. While prison conditions are somewhat Spartan regarding food and sanitation, complaints appear to be minimal or non-existent."

The downside is that low lying Tuvalu fears it might be swamped by rising sea levels -- although a Pacific wide sea-level monitoring program suggests its capital, Funafuti, may actually be rising.

News Headlines

Tuvalu Online Home