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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

06 September 2019

Author

Fiji Women's Rights Movement

Themes

FWRM calls for better conduct in Parliament 6/09/19

 FWRM calls for better conduct in Parliament

6/09/2019

FWRM is extremely disappointed by the misogynistic comments and gestures made in Parliament.

 On Wednesday 4th September, in the middle of Parliamentary discussions, the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was heard saying the words, "you should have covered yourself up" to a fellow member of Parliament, Lynda Tabuya followed by a gesture, where he pulled together the flaps of his jacket. The Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum reinforced his comments by saying soon after, "they could show some decorum in many ways than one."

 In light of the recent surge of violence against women in Fiji, it is appalling that men in the highest positions of leadership in Fiji are perpetuating regressive attitudes and discrimination towards women. This is not the first time a member of Parliament has expressed ignorant views on women, which is unacceptable.

 Women should be treated equally, be free and safe from discrimination and violence in our communities and most certainly in the workplace. Fiji has a high incidence rate of workplace harassment. The Parliament as the highest workplace in a country is where one would least expect this appalling behaviour. The shaming of a woman member of Parliament for her choice of dress in Parliament instead of focusing on issues of national interest reflects widely on the negative attitudes towards women and the state of gender equality in Fiji.

 Women are already underrepresented in the Parliament and struggled against pervasive discrimination and patriarchal norms of leadership to be in that space in the first place. They are elected leaders of Parliament, equal to their male colleagues and must be treated as such no matter their age, gender and background.

 The Prime Minister and Attorney General were among those who condemned Mosese Bulitavu for shifting the blame of domestic violence to women in the last few weeks. Yet, they made comments to demean a woman on the state of her dress, not on social media but within the Parliament and on national television.

 It is integral now more than ever to promote attitudes towards women.  CSOs, NGOs and women's groups in Fiji, the Pacific and globally have continuously advocated, lobbied and raised awareness on these issues but uninformed, misogynistic comments by prominent members of society and elected leaders threaten the progress we have made and the efforts towards addressing it.

 Leaders of Fiji must take responsibility to be informed of gender equality and condemn all forms of discrimination. It is everyone's responsibility to foster a society that is free from violence and discrimination against women and girls. Elected leaders and government play a critical role in this. We call for more co-operation and awareness on human rights issues. We must collectively denounce misogyny in Fiji.

 

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