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Access to justice

Litia Cava
Saturday, November 25, 2017

THE 49 women who took part in a research by Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) that led to a report titled Balancing the Scales: Improving Fijian Women's Access to Justice, said they experienced violence for an average of 868 days before they went to the police or courts to seek justice.

The report said from 2012 until last year, the Legal Aid Commission assisted twice as many men as women, because most of the accused in criminal cases were men.

During the launch of the report on Tuesday, Chief Justice Anthony Gates, said the idea of having a community help post could be of great help.

Justice Gates said the setting up of such help desk could assist people to know where they could go to for further assistance.

"You can't expect the Legal Aid Commission to do everything, they are already seriously overloaded and they are asked to do so much," Justice Gates said.

"They've got more staff then the DPP's office so that is quite a good sign because Government since 2009, in particular, adopted the Legal Aid and has let it grow."

The report stated that two in three women faced difficulties in going to the police. The women surveyed said the police told them to resolve the issue within the family or village or they did not take what they said seriously.

FWRM research team leader Menka Goundan said according to the data received by the team, women were overwhelmingly the victim in sexual offence cases with nine out of ten sexual offence cases (rape, attempted rape, indecent assault and child sexual assault and abuse cases reported to the police) being committed against women and girls.

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