PHOTO: Dr Nasili Vaka’uta lashes out at his fellow church leaders in Tonga
A Tongan minister has lambasted churches and groups which oppose the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), calling them “confused men and women” whoÂ âhide behind church, Bible and God in order to continue to discriminate against women.â
Rev. Dr NÄsili VakaÊ»uta, who is a lecturer at the University of Aucklandâs School of Theology, took to Facebook last week after some church leaders marched to Parliament and presented a petition to the Speaker of the House.
The petitioners claimed CEDAW would open the door to legalised abortion and same sex marriage.
Last Friday about 500 protesters marched to the Royal Palace and presented petitions to the king asking him to intervene with governmentâs move to ratify CEDAW.
The petitionsÂ were reported to have gathered around 15,000 signatures.
Some Tongan women who support CEDAW said the attitude of church leaders in Tonga showed how intolerant and backward they were.
Dr Vakaâuta, a former lecturer at the Free Wesleyan Churchâs Siaâatoutai Theological College, Â applauded those women who supported the governmentâs move to ratify CEDAW.
âIt is utter stupidity to protest against a very straightforward convention to ensure gender justice and gender equality,â Dr VakaÊ»uta wrote on his Facebook page.
The protests against CEDAW have divided the Tongan community at home and abroad.
Supporters of CEDAW claimed some church leaders misled their followers about the convention.
The placards carried by marchers seemed to prove what CEDAW supportersâ have claimed to be true
One placard read: âTonga rejects colonialismâ while another said: âCEDAW = 666! Evil!â and âGod created Eve and Adam not CEDAWâ
Another placard read: âI am proud of my family mother and father not CEDAWâ.
Dr Vakaâutaâs post on Facebook met with approval.
One respondent said: âWell said Dr Principal… sadly, discrimination against women is a global epidemic… and to use the scriptures written in a different context and different era to support their superiority and trash equality in the 21st century is shamefulâ.
Another said: âIt’s a pity that in this day and age some people would still want to use the Bible to advance their own interests. When will people realize that women are also human beings. Shame to those groups in Tonga, and thanks Nasili for sharing thisâ.
A female commentator who shared Dr Vakaâutaâs post wrote:
âIt’s a convention to allow women the opportunities that men have enjoyed for centuries and to eliminate all discrimination against women.
âSadly, our women in Tonga are taking part in a campaign that’s against their very quest for self determination.
âThis is a huge backward step. Despite the Government and Minister Fe’ao VakatÄ assuring that there are exceptions that will not interfere with our Tongan laws and traditions, no one seems to listen or pay attention. What a shame!â
The government has vowed to stand firm on its stance to sign CEDAW.