Twice as violent

IN Fiji, 64 per cent of Fijian women (two to three) aged 18 to 49, who have ever been in an intimate relationship, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence or both by a husband or intimate partner in their lifetime. This is almost double the global average.

This was data released to the public in the Fiji National Service Delivery Protocol for Responding to Cases of Gender Based Violence in Suva this month.

The statistics, according to the national Violence Against Women (VAW) prevalence study conducted by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) which was published in 2013, highlighted the serious and pervasive problem of gender-based violence (GBV).

According to the study, the main forms of violence reported by Fijian women over the course of a lifetime were physical, sexual and emotional abuse by an intimate partner.

Physical violence is the most widespread over a woman’s lifetime in Fiji and according to FWCC (2013) 61 per cent of all ever-partnered women (more than three to five) experiencing it, compared with 58 per cent experiencing emotional violence with 43 per cent (more than one to three) experiencing sexual violence.

The national prevalence study conducted by FWCC shows that 80 per cent of women have witnessed some form of violence in the home, 66 per cent of women have been physically abused by partners and nearly half repeatedly abused, while 26 per cent of women have been beaten while pregnant.

In launching the Fiji National Service Delivery Protocol for Responding to Cases of Gender Based Violence, President Jioji Konrote said the Fijian Government’s was working towards ending gender inequality and discrimination against women, and consistently aiming to find innovative and practical ways to do this must be acknowledged and wholeheartedly supported.

“Violence against women hurts everyone. It does not hurt only the victim. When women experience violence, families, communities and the entire country is affected through emotional, psychological and economic impacts,” he said.

“This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice.

“Cases of sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women have captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change with evidence like statistics from the Fiji Police Force for the year 2017 revealing that there were 886 reported cases of domestic violence against women and children.”

He said the National Service Delivery Protocol (which is a standard operating procedure interagency response) was a commendable undertaking made possible through the extensive consultations across Government and the existing service providers.

“It provides for a multi-sectorial response to ensure that appropriate, timely and quality services are provided to the survivors of gender-based violence,” he said.

“It ensures that perpetrators of violence are dealt with adequately and justice is given to the victims.”

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8 a new 18.2 million euros ($F45. 57m) regional program was announced to improve gender equality and to address violence against women and girls.

The new Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls brings together governments, civil society organisations, communities and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls and increase access to quality response services for survivors.

Head of the European Union Delegation for the Pacific Ambassador Julian Wilson said the European Union was strongly committed to gender equality, the empowerment of women of all ages and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls around the world.

“We are proud to be funding this new and important partnership program through the 11th European Development Fund in the Pacific, to address the causes of gender inequality and violence against women,” she said.

Minister for Women Mereseini Vuniwaqa said the establishment and continuation of the Gender-Based Violence Service Protocol was to improve the provisions and delivery of services which perfectly timed the range of important steps they were taking to stop violence against women and their children in the country.