Policing Gender Violence in Vanuatu


Gender violence is one of the greatest challenges to peace and security in Pacific Island Countries. The persistence of this problem is often linked to the limits of state-based policing authority. It is argued that this approach fails to grapple adequately with hybrid systems of regulatory authority in Pacific Island Countries that include customary and faith-based forms of authority. Feminist inquiry into the difficulties Pacific women face in securing justice when they are the victims of gendered crimes frequently highlights the gendered failings of state and customary systems of justice, finding that both systems reflect and further entrench the subordinated status of women. This paper addresses the tension between the apparent limits of state-centred models of policing and the shortfalls of hybridised structures of regulatory authority. It reports a theoretically informed empirical study that investigated how ni-Vanuatu women understand gender violence and the role that police can play in its prevention. Using participant research and photo elicitation surveys, we asked 1) how does the authority of policing agencies operate when addressing violence against women in relation to other sites of international and local sociocultural authority in the Vanuatu context, and 2) how do women understand and value policing authority relative to other sites of regulatory authority? We found that, while police in Vanuatu operate in the context of constructive complementarity with other forms of authority, women valued police, identifying them as the key source of regulatory authority that could provide help if their partner became violent or if they were threatened.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2021-12-01
Pages:239 to 261
Section:Special Issue: Policing and Preventing Gender Violence in the Global South
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How to Cite
Bull, M. and George, N. (2021) “Policing Gender Violence in Vanuatu”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(4), pp. 239-261. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.1768.

Author Biographies

Queensland University of Technology

Melissa Bull is the Director of QUT Centre for Justice, and a Professor in the QUT School of Justice. Her main areas of research include drug regulation and policing diversity.  Her current research projects explore new ways of thinking about policing in Pacific Island states.  Melissa has published widely on drug regulation and drug control, sentencing and punishment, long term immigration detention, community policing and diversity, counter terrorism narratives and prevention programs, and gender violence in Pacific island states

The University of Queensland

Nicole George is an Associate Professor in the School of Political Science & International Studies at the University of Queensland. She has a strong interest in the ways that gender and regulatory authority intersect in Pacific Island states as well as women’s experiences of conflict and conflict transition processes.  She has undertaken field-work on these questions in a range of Pacific countries including, Fiji, Bougainville, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands.  Her recent research publications appear in International Affairs, Cooperation and Conflict, International Feminist Journal of PoliticsInternational Political Science Review, and Australian Journal of International Affairs. She is the author of a monograph titled Situating Women: Gender Politics and Circumstance in Fiji (ANU Press 2012) and currently finalising a new project on the regulation of gender violence in Fiji, Bougainville and New Caledonia provisionally titled Mediating between Rights and Rightfulness: Institutional perspectives on gender and violence in the Pacific Islands.