Tongan theology expert condemns CEDAW critics who  “hide behind church” to discriminate against women  

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” who “hide behind church, Bible and God in order to continue to discriminate against women.”

Rev. Dr Nāsili Vakaʻuta, who is a lecturer at the University of Auckland’s 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 government’s move to ratify CEDAW.

The petitions 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 Vaka’uta, a former lecturer at the Free Wesleyan Church’s Sia’atoutai Theological College,  applauded those women who supported the government’s move to ratify CEDAW.

“It is utter stupidity to protest against a very straightforward convention to ensure gender justice and gender equality,” Dr Vakaʻuta 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 supporters’ have claimed to be true

One placard read: “Tonga rejects colonialism” while another said: “CEDAW = 666! Evil!” and “God created Eve and Adam not CEDAW”

Another placard read: “I am proud of my family mother and father not CEDAW”.

Cedaw banner
CEDAW supporters claimed some church leaders in Tonga misled their followers about CEDAW. Photo/ Supplied


Dr Vaka’uta’s post on Facebook met with approval.

One respondent said: “Well 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 shameful”.

Another said: “It’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 this”.

A female commentator who shared Dr Vaka’uta’s post wrote:

“It’s a convention to allow women the opportunities that men have enjoyed for centuries and to eliminate all discrimination against women.

“Sadly, our women in Tonga are taking part in a campaign that’s against their very quest for self determination.

“This is a huge backward step. Despite the Government and Minister Fe’ao Vakatā 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!”

The government has vowed to stand firm on its stance to sign CEDAW.

CEDAW Dr Nasili Vaka'uta 2

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