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South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Advisory Team

ILO/SEAPAT's OnLine Gender Learning & Information Module


Unit 2: Gender issues in the world of work

Emerging gender issues in the Asia Pacific region

Violence against women

Violence against Women in Fiji

[Source: Section 7 of National Report on Women in Fiji: Situation, Analysis and Strategies, in preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995]

Government is concerned about the increasing incidence of violence in our society and the complex of factors that contribute to this. Breakdown in families and traditional institutions for stability, social and economic pressures and external influences through powerful agents such as television and advertisements, are of concern. The role of NGOs and of religious and church organisations in maintaining a strong moral core for our society is vital.

While the collection of statistics on violence against women as well as its compilation and publication leave much room for improvement, the various special efforts made to date indicate a significant increase in violence committed against women and children since the latter quarter of the 80s. This has given impetus to special women NGOs and to the government agencies concerned to address the issue in a more coordinated and comprehensive way.

Some women’s NGOs such as the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement have made submissions for the reform of rape laws. Current definition and sentences for rape are of concern to women. Prostitution, incest and abortions are other areas of continuing concern to women, and where there is some need for examination of the relevant laws.

Domestic violence is undifferentiated from other forms of assault. Therefore relevant statistics are difficult to locate. Clause 276 of the Penal Code states, "any person who unlawfully assaults another is guilty of a misdemeanour and if the assault is not committed in circumstances for which greater punishment is provided for" the person is liable for 1 year imprisonment. Clause 277 on actual bodily harm gives 5 years with or without corporal punishment. However, many women who are brutally attacked by their partners often agree to reconciliation or to acceptance of a bound over sentence. For the last 12 years at least, the Social Welfare Department has needed extra institutions to back up their services to assist women and children in crisis. At present these are the salvation Army Family Care Home, Chevalier Home, Boystown, St. Christopher (all in Suva), and the Ba Boys Home. There is no refuge for women victims of violence anywhere in Fiji.

The Women’s Crisis Centre is an NGO that focuses on violence against women. It has dealt with a steady increase of women and children over the nine years it has been operating. These increased from 71 cases in 1985 to 660 cases in 1993. Police statistics on rape, defilement, and incest over the years 1987 to 1992 are presented below. These show an increase in cases of defilement in the under 16 age group and decrease in rape cases.

POLICE STATISTICS

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

Rape/attempt rape

80

102

71

98

82

77

48

Defilement (under 13)

17

3

6

12

11

2

4

Defilement (16 under)

40

46

75

64

42

53

73

Incest

4

4

1

1

6

4

n.a.

These statistics are only reported cases and is not a true indication of the extent of rape in Fiji. Experience of the Women’s Crisis Centre indicates that more than 90% of women or children who suffer sexual assault are too frightened or ashamed to report the matter to anybody.

Those that do seek assistance may be taken into the care of the few institutions available and/or given an allowance by the welfare office. Statistics on those receiving care and protection allowance in the various home are provided below.

Children/Families Receiving Care and Protection Allowance

 

1987

1988

1989

1991

1992

Dilkusha Home

15

13

14

21

20

St. Christopher’s

32

30

38

29

36

Veilomani Home

6

7

8

8

6

Family Placements

66

68

79

89

120

Public Legal Services are utilised largely by women. There is only one available solicitor whose services are largely concentrated in the Southern Division.

Since the early eighties women’s participation both in the judicial system and in the police force has increased significantly, although their overall proportion in those areas remain small. The Acting Director of Public Prosecutions since 1993 is a women as is the Deputy Registrar. There has been 2 women Magistrates; 1 from 1985 to 1987 and the other from 1989 to 1991.

The police force had 80 policewomen out of a total of 1,925 in 1991. In 1994 this had increased to 100. None is specifically trained to work with women victims of violence. Concerned women’s NGOs and the Department for Women have cooperated with the Police Academy to raise awareness of police officers on the effects of rape and other types of violence on women. In addition, Women’s groups have begun working on a legal literacy program to empower women.

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