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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

07 May 2024

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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FWRM Demands Urgent Gender Sensitivity Training for Members of the Legal Profession

2/02/2024

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) in its annual rape case analysis continues to find shocking discriminatory practices against female survivors of rape within the formal criminal justice system.

As part of FWRM’s ongoing research and advocacy work on strengthening Fijian Women’s Access to Justice, rape cases decided in the Fijian High Courts have been analyzed from 2016 till to date. This analysis is published yearly, and FWRM releases today the 2023 Rape Case Analysis.

“Whilst there has been much progress made with regards to how rape cases are handled in Fiji (increased sentences, removing need for corroboration, jurisprudence on victim behavior), there is still room for much improvement” says Executive Director, Nalini Singh.

In the 2023 analysis FWRM continues to find that discriminatory practices (such as inappropriate questions being directed towards rape victims) is still being perpetuated by legal practitioners, especially members of the private bar and government appointed defense lawyers.

For example the law is very clear with regards to physical resistance during rape. Section 206 (1) of the Crimes Act 2009 of Fiji states that “…the submission without physical resistance by a person to an act of another person shall not alone constitute consent.”  Further to this the Courts in numerous cases have said that victims of rape all react differently to violence being perpetrated on them and does not indicate consent to the rape.

Despite this established law and jurisprudence, lawyers continue to ask victims questions which add no value to their work other than to demean and belittle victims of rape. “It seems that private lawyers are just further victimizing rape victims in Court,” said Ms Singh. Some examples of questions posed to victims are...“why didn’t you run/scream/yell/shout for help?”, “how long were you raped for?..“why didn’t you report the rape earlier?” and so many more…

This attracts little to no reprimand, and FWRM demands urgent gender sensitivity training for all lawyers in Fiji. Guidelines for anyone who comes into contact with victim/survivors of rape must be developed by the legal fraternity, in consultation with feminist NGOs like the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and FWRM, to gender sensitize lawyers by breaking down concepts of gender equality, power imbalance, and the rule of law.

“Why aren’t victims of robbery/burglary/theft asked similar questions in Court? Why is it only victims of sexual violence are asked why they did not escape the violence?” asks Ms Singh.

Given that rape is a form of gender based violence (overwhelming majority of victims are female, majority perpetrators are male), practices which seek to undermine experiences of sexual violence are discriminatory in nature, because they target women for speaking their truth.

FWRM calls for all formal justice sector key agencies to work together to eradicate all discriminatory practices against all women and girls including during hearing of rape trials.

The following were some key findings from the 2023 analysis:

From a total of 96 Rape Cases that were decided in the High Court of Fiji in 2023, which were published online on www.paclii.org it was found that:

  • In about 61% per cent of the cases, the perpetrator was in a domestic relationship with the victim or was related to her. (58 out of 96 cases)
  • In approximately 32 % of the cases the perpetrator was previously known to the victim (30 out of 96 cases)
  • Only about 6% of cases had the perpetrator previously not known or related to the victim (5 out of 96 cases). In one case (roughly 1%) it was unknown whether the perpetrator was related, in a domestic relationship or previously known to the victim/survivor.
  • Out of 58 cases where the perpetrator was known to the victim/survivor, DVRO was only issued for 23 cases (40%). 11 case sentences were not publicly available on www.paclii.org so we do not know if a DVRO was issued or not. There were some cases where the perpetrator was found not guilty.
  • The youngest victim was 2 years old
  • The youngest perpetrator was only 12 years old. 2 juveniles were given suspended sentences. For 27 cases the age of the perpetrator is not known.
  • Highest sentence delivered was for a period of 220 months or 18 years and 4 months. A total of 14 case sentences have not been published.
  • There were 16 acquittals, 7 rape cases were reduced from rape to lessor offence and sentenced accordingly.

We acknowledge the Courts Registry and the High Courts for their transparency in providing case judgments. In addition, the University of the South Pacific’s School of Law is also thanked for managing the online platform www.paclii.org which makes available case judgments used in this analysis.  

Ends

For media enquiries, contact FWRM Communications Officer Serelisoni Moceica on 8677330 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.