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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

13 June 2019

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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FWRM EU JOINT PR: Improving Fijian Women’s Access to Justice Essential 13/06/19

JOINT PR: Improving Fijian Women’s Access to Justice Essential

13/06/19

(Suva, Fiji) - FWRM marked another milestone for its work on women’s access to justice with the latest release of case data analysis on family law and violence against women and children from the Island Circuit Courts.

This is the final annex to be published as part of the Balancing the Scales: Improving Fijian Women’s Access to Justice research project funded by the European Union (EU) and supported by the UN Women Fiji Multi Country Office.

The Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, Mr. Christoph Wagner said, "The EU is pleased to be able to support the work of the Balancing the Scales project which has taken a very inclusive approach and worked closely with partners and stakeholders through consultations, information sessions, communications, meetings and research to enhance understanding of women's rights in relation to justice. The project has provided valuable information and recommendations towards fostering an enabling environment for improved women's access to justice."

 

This week’s launch of the final annex follows the recent release of May sexual offence statistics by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).

The latest statistics revealed that there were 87 counts of separate incidents of rape and sexual offences in May alone, bringing the total for 2019 to 260 counts.

“It’s beyond comprehension that violence against women and girls continues to be pervasive in our society. The statistics are appalling for sexual offences and the high rates of assault on women and girls bodies,” said FWRM Executive Director Nalini Singh.

Alarmingly, in the month of May more than 60 percent of the victims and survivors were under 18 years of age.

“Sexual offences are a grave attack on human rights and victims/survivors are left with deep emotional trauma for the rest of their lives. We must do better to change attitudes towards women and girls,” said Ms Singh.

“For this reason, FWRM’s access to justice work has been important to present information that reflected the realities of how men and women were impacted by sexual violence and that the evidence validates concerns on the prevalence of the issue and that women and girls make up a distinct majority of the victims/survivors.”

“It commemorates the long-term and continuous engagement and partnerships between FWRM and formal justice sector agencies in a collaborative effort to identify the existing barriers and challenges women face and work towards investing in responsive justice sector services,” said Ms. Singh.

The latest annex contains in-depth analysis of data from the Island Court sittings including Tavueni, Moala, Totoya, Matuku, Kabala, Lakeba, Vanuabalavu, Koro and Gau for the years 2016 to 2017.

One of the key observations from the island court sittings was that ‘’all staff that had gone for Island Court from the Legal Aid Commission, Fiji Police Force and the Fiji Courts were males. Due to this, the researcher observed women were skeptical to approach the officers with their legal matters.”

To improve women’s participation and awareness, it was encouraging to note that the Legal Aid Commission was also conducting informal awareness sessions with women in the villages. Men were present in most villages to attend court sittings.

“It was also encouraging to see some of the recommendations from the summary research report released in 2017 being taken up. The ODPP now publishes annual sex-disaggregated data on Rape and Sexual Offences Statistics,” said Ms Singh.

“We’ve been grateful to work with the formal justice sector agencies and other CSOs to highlight women’s realities and how the law and justice system supports women and girls. As this project comes to an end, we also acknowledge the great support we’ve received from the European Union, UN Women and the Law and Development Partners,” she added.

FWRM will continue its commitments to implement the recommendations highlighted in the research. As part of this, FWRM is continuing its collaboration with the Fiji Courts on the presentation and publication of case data that presents 5-year trends for different types of family law and violence against women and children cases. FWRM is also continuing its gender analysis of High Court and Magistrate Court cases.

END

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