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Fay Volatabu
Monday, December 03, 2012

HOW I miss my childhood days. I had no worries and thought that the world was a great place to live in. Whether I was playing under the mango trees with friends or even in my most mischievous moment, I would be safely assured that I was loved, cared for and would always be safe. The common argument among kids that my father was stronger or greater than yours was something not even worth arguing about because in my eyes, my dad was superman, my mum was wonderwoman and we were in a capsule of safety and love.

It was not a big deal to walk to the shop and when a stranger spoke to you there was no malice in that except to say that she or he was a very nice person.

Today, unfortunately, our children are not so lucky. Even though I am not a parent, I worry when my niece is not visible nor audible. I am apprehensive when my nephew is wondering around the neighbourhood. I fear the fact that today children as young as five or women as old as 89 are being harassed, attacked or even raped. I worry that a grandfather, an uncle, a father or even a neighbour is capable of violent acts against you and the weaker members of your family.

It is no wonder then that the Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) led the co-ordination of activities worldwide under the theme "From peace in the home to peace in the world: let's challenge militarism and end violence against women."

I wonder whether this is their attempt at trying to attain world peace or an attempt to solve violence in the home. I wonder if they see violence in the home as a result of militarism or whether militarism is a result for the violence in our homes.

Whatever their reasons may be, the fact remains that there is too much violence in the home and someone has to make the first step to stop it. There are many ways of being engaged. We can all be involved in the White Ribbon Campaign, wear black or be part of the one billion rising but the stance we make has to be effective and will make an impact in minimising or even stopping violence in our communities.

All over the world we hear of horrendous acts on women and children such as genital mutilation, acid attacks where acid is poured over women's face to punish them, infanticide and abortions of female babies to avoid the dowry payment for wives, trafficking of women and girls for prostitution, husband raping wives, family abuse against women, rape or honour killings of women by men to maintain their family honour, stoning of women who are blamed for dishonorable acts, withholding of medication or care given to patients and women living with disability.

We might think that this does not occur in our region but in Papua New Guinea a recent study by Family Voice Centre, based in Goroka Eastern Highlands Province, in conjunction with the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, showed that educated men are responsible for much of the violence against women in Papua New Guinea.

Out of 700 people interviewed in the study, 250 said the male perpetrators were educated at college and tertiary level, while over 150 said their attackers were educated up to Grade 12, compared to about 20 who said their assailants were educated up to primary school level.

The study, conducted showed that men were the main offenders in both physical and sexual assaults against women. This confirmed the belief that "family and sexual violence was an extremely serious problem in Papua New Guinea and it has been for a very long time".

The study went on in detail about the various forms of violence which ranged from the garden to marital rape. It recorded violence in all forms such as touching, abuse, sexual harassment, attempted rape, no physical forms of violence.

The chief executive officer at the PNG Ports Corporation, Stanley Alphonse, stated that various studies had revealed the shocking levels of violence in the community that it was widespread, pervasive and was devastating victims and those close to them.

Mr Alphonse said that was why the PNG Ports Corporation had been fully supporting the campaign on violence against women for many years .

He believes it is imperative that everyone in Papua New Guinea take a stand and say no to any form of violence against their womenfolk. Mr Alphonse said PNG Ports staff in Port Moresby and around the country were going to participate by wearing a white ribbon on White Ribbon Day.

This day was celebrated on November 25th but for us as Fiji citizens does it mean that we do not need to celebrate because we have no horrendous forms of violence happening to us?

Far from it. In the Assessment on the State of Violence Against Women Fiji Report published by UNFPA in 2008, the research stated that more than 80per cent of crimes against persons that were reported to the police were against women. FWCC recorded in their 2007 statistics showed that 95per cent of women experiencing violence in the home reported also experiencing emotional violence.

This often linked to mental and physical health of women. They also recorded rape within marriage, sexual violence and harassment with a focus also on an emerging issue of trafficking of women and girls.

Often we hide and believe that it does not affect us ; but we need to be more proactive and stop the attitude that it happens elsewhere or that it never happens in our home or society so it is not a big issues.

The government has a legal instrument in place to stop violence In the form of the Domestic Violence Decree No 33 in which Domestic Violence is defined as a crime.

Domestic Violence is defined as physical injury or threatening physical injury; sexual abuse or threatening sexual abuse; damaging or threatening to damage property of a victim, threatening, intimidating or harassing; interfering with property of the victim or keeping the victim under surveillance; persistently behaving in an abusive, cruel, inhumane degrading or provocative or offensive manner.

Domestic Violence is also defined as causing the victim apprehension or fear by following the victim, or loitering around a workplace or other place frequented by the victim; entering or interfering with a home or place occupied by the victim; interfering with the property of the victim; keeping the victim under surveillance.

It is also defined as causing or allowing a child to see any of the violence mentioned above or causing another person to do any of the actions referred to above.

Domestic Violence happens in all our homes and we have all been either a victim or a survivor of Domestic Violence. We can all stop it by speaking out against it. We can be involved in the White Ribbon Campaign, wear black every Thursday to show our hatred for violence as we mourn all the victims of domestic violence or we can be part of the One Billion rising by acting against this social ill by dancing, walking out, rising up and demanding that we end violence against women.

We can show our collective strength worldwide by participating in one billion rising campaign.

It is time that you and I change our attitudes from negativity and passivity to violence to zero tolerance in our communities.

What can you do to help?

For more information please contact the National Council of Women Fiji, Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Femlink Pacific and Fiji Women's Crisis Centre.

* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. The views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper. Email: secretary@ncwfiji.org or ncwfgs1@gmail.com.





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