Abuse in the home

Domestic violence is a serious issue. It needs to be addressed by every Fijian. The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has taken a proactive stand in setting up free, non-judgmental and confidential counselling and advocacy services that will help women who suffer at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends, partners and male counterparts.

For the first six months of this year the centre received 277 cases of domestic violence and two of rape.

Earlier last week, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Akbar invited male members of the Opposition in Parliament to join her in supporting the male advocacy program introduced to assist in fighting violence against women and children.

This week’s FOCUS touches on domestic violence against women and children.

Domestic violence is said to be a violent or aggressive act within the home, which is typically the violent abuse of a spouse or partner. Fiji is not alone when it comes to increasing numbers of domestic violence cases.

The Government introduced in 2009 the Domestic Violence Decree, which provided communities a greater protection against abusive and violent acts, clarified the duties of police and introduced restraining orders and other measures to promote the safety and wellbeing of victims of such acts.

Ms Ali said to receive 277 cases for the first six months alone was worrying. She said in most instances, women who were victims of domestic violence did not want to report such acts because of the fear of intimidation and in certain cases they were flashed the “sole breadwinner” card which makes them think twice of reporting domestic violence cases.

“In most cases, victims of domestic violence are told ‘who is going to look after the family if you report him’? It’s this kind of statement that makes the women think twice of reporting the matter, but when the man was hitting the woman was he thinking of that fact?”

Ms Ali said another factor was men saying women provoked them into becoming violent and abusive.

She said what men failed to understand was that men provoked women all the time but women could not just hit men.

Ms Ali said male advocacy had a particular “ideology” which included extensive training to change men’s behaviour and getting them out of the idea that “they own women”.

She said contributing factors to domestic violence were sexual harassment, coercive control, being sexist and instances where rape and child sexual abuse happened.

“Women just can’t stand up and start punching the man whenever she has been provoked, so there is no such thing as women provoking men,” she said.

Ms Ali also welcomed the comments made by Mrs Akbar saying the whole of Parliament needed to be involved in the fight against violence against women.

“At the moment, FWCC is engaged with the Ministry of Women in conducting male advocacy for men in the zero tolerance zones. The training for the Central/Eastern and Northern divisions have been completed and the third one will start in the West at the end of the month,” Ms Ali said.

Ms Ali said fighting domestic violence needed a holistic approach and thanked faith-based organisations that had been part of the male advocacy training since 2002.

Next week’s FOCUS will tell you more on why most battered women continue to stay with their abusive partners.