ISN'T it amazing that today our children have more freedom to say things or do things that we or at least I would not have been able to do as a child.
As a child, I would not have dared to raise my voice and it was not because I had barbaric parents but it was more out of respect and the fact that it was the way things were.
Today, I have a nephew who has been allowed by his parents to live in Fiji while they live overseas as he wishes to spend time with his grandparents.
Imagine if that was in my childhood. I probably would never have even dared to voice what I want, let alone be allowed to do that.
Children today have some freedom and some have too much freedom but the key word is that children have freedom to do things I would not have dreamt of partially because of the fact that their rights are now considered.
As a child, we were governed by the rod and stick and usually parents would be seen to reiterate to teachers, "If my child misbehaves, please smack him or her".
Today, if that is a remark stated by any parent, you would be answerable to the law. What is your point, you might ask.
My short answer to that is today we have legal instruments which have been codified into our constitutions or we have laws or policies created to govern our lives because of the fact that Fiji has ratified certain International Conventions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights nine core International Rights Instruments.
1. ICERD 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination;
2. ICCPR 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
3. ICESRR 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
4. CEDAW 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women;
5. CAT 1984 Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
6. CRC 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child;
7. ICMRW 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All migrant Workers and Members of other families;
8. ICPED 2006 International Convention on the Protection of al persons from Enforced Disappearance;
9. CPRD 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Fiji has signed CPRD 2006 while it has ratified ICERD, CEDAW and CRC.
In addition to these instruments, there are 30 basic rights that are in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
* Right to equality
* Freedom of discrimination
* Right to life, liberty, personal security
* Freedom from slavery
* Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
* Right to recognition as a person before law
* Right to equality before the law
* Right to remedy by competent tribunal
* Freedom from arbitrary arrest and exile
* Right to fair and public hearing
* Right to be considered innocent until proven guilty
* Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence
* Right to free movement in and out the country
* Right to asylum in other countries from persecution
* Right to a nationality and the freedom to change it
* Right to marriage and family
* Right to own property
* Freedom of belief and religion
* Freedom of opinion and information
* Right to peaceful assembly and association
* Right to participate in government and free elections
* Right to social security
* Right to desirable work and join trade unions
* Right to rest and leisure
* Right to adequate living standard
* Right to education
* Right to participate in the cultural life of the community
* Right to a social order that articulates this document
* Community duties essential to free and full development
* Freedom from State or personal interference in the above rights
* As we prepare to write our new constitution the onus is on us to be able to include aspects of the constitution which would ensure that our rights are preserved or upheld.
In this day and age where there are many conventions and rights, how do we incorporate this into our own realities? One of the ways to ensure this could be is to include this is in our constitution.
In our 1997 constitution, Chapter 4 allowed for the Bill of Rights and we as Fiji citizens did not realise how fortunate we were to have this included in our constitution.
Today as we mull over what we are to include in our new constitution, do we go in with blindfolds or do we go in with eye opened, and make well informed contributions?
Do we include all the rights listed above?
Do we ensure everyone's voice is heard?
Would we be able to include everyone's voice?
What do we do if our constituent's rights are not incorporated or correctly represented in the constitution?
When we study past constitutions were all our rights incorporated?
As women in Fiji, we must educate ourselves and our families on the legal instruments that exist and rights that we are entitled to. How are you going to ensure that these rights are understood and safeguarded? Can we incorporate them into the highest legal document of the land?
What do we do to ensure it is respected?
How do we ensure that it is never taken away? Who do we need to engage to ensure it is always respected?
Isn't it your role and mine to ensure this? What are you going to do about it then?
* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. Email: email@example.com