Marshallese women seek court help to halt domestic violence

The Marshall Islands is on a record-setting pace for court intervention in domestic violence with more women coming forward to ask the country‘s High Court to protect them from abusive partners.

Photo: 123RF

Criminal prosecutions against men who assaulted women are also on the rise.

Two men in different incidents on remote outer atolls were charged criminally by the Attorney General‘s office for beating girlfriends or ex-wives, while two more women sucessfully got court protection orders requiring violent perpetrators to stay away from victims.

Few men are charged criminally for domestic violence in part due to the difficulties in successfully prosecuting these cases.

Two years ago the High Court instituted an administrative procedure to increase access to justice for victims of domestic violence to file for protection.

None were requested in 2015. But after the new rules went into play, which don‘t require use of an attorney – although some women do engage one, 12 filed for protection in 2016, 16 filed last year, and already six have gained protection orders in the first three months of 2018.

An Arno man was charged in the High Court with one count each of assault and domestic violence for allegedly assaulting his ex-wife on the sparsely populated and isolated island of Bikarej in Arno Atoll.

The charges against Jabit Askiah Jim, 34, said that he kicked the victim, 38, in the back twice and then threw a pot of hot food at her, but missed.

In a second domestic violence incident that has risen to a criminal prosecution, a former Marshall Islands Police Department officer has been charged with using his authority as a policeman to assault and cause severe bodily injury to a woman on Jaluit Atoll.

Zachras Amsa, 22, was charged with “official oppression” – meaning using his position of authority to cause harm to another – and assault for an incident said to have happened on Jaluit Atoll recently.

He allegedly went to a house on the remote outer atoll, kicked a 20-year-old woman in the face and after she got up, kicked her in the head and face again. The charges said she was severely injured.

Both Jim and Amsa have hearings later this month at which they will file their pleas and the judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence to move to trial.

Meanwhile, in an unusual development, a teenage girl asked the High Court for protection from her father in a court action filed on Thursday.

In response to the request for a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) from the teenager, High Court Judge Colin Winchester issued the TPO, directing the father to stay 200 feet away from the girl.

According to a statement the girl filed with the court, the father beat her on New Year‘s eve, hitting her face with a rock. More recent threats of physical violence were also reported by the teenager.

A hearing to either convert the temporary protection order into a permanent order or dismiss it is scheduled for April 26. Most women do not request permanent protection orders.

This is the fifth temporary protection order issued in Majuro since January, and the sixth overall including one from Ebeye Island.