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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

30 December 2021

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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FWRM & FWCC JOINT PRESS RELEASE: Women Challenge Gender Discriminatory Name Change Laws 30/12/2021

FWRM & FWCC JOINT PRESS RELEASE:

Women Challenge Gender Discriminatory Name Change Laws

30/12/2021

Seven women supported by the Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), have filed a constitutional redress case challenging the name change laws recently passed by the Government.

The case was called today before Chief Justice Kamal Kumar in the High Court in Suva, who gave time table directions for the filing of affidavits. He has fixed the case for hearing in late February 2022.

The plaintiffs include, Yashmin Nisha Khan, Adi Asilina Davila Toganivalu, Lavinia Rose Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, Shiromani Priscilla Singh, Elizabeth Catherine Reade Fong, Leba Seni Nabou and Salote Raikolo Qalo. They are represented by former Supervisor of Elections, Jon Apted of Suva law firm, Munro Leys.

The women who are all from different ethnic groups and political affiliations, are claiming that the name change laws are discriminatory against married women on the grounds of sex, gender and marital status and breach their constitutional rights to equality and to vote. They are claiming that the new laws also violate their constitutional rights to privacy, as well as to their cultural and social identity.

The defendants are the Attorney-General and the current Supervisor of Elections, who are represented by Devanesh Sharma of R. Patel.

The laws which are under challenge make changes to the Electoral (Registration of Voters) Act  and the Interpretation Act 1967. They require Fijians to use only the name on their birth certificate for voting and other official purposes including for official identification documents. Under the new laws, Fijians who wish to use their married or adopted names for these purposes must formally change their names on their birth certificates in order to do so. The women believe that the new laws have a disproportionate, adverse impact upon married women compared to other groups.

FWRM, FWCC and other women’s non-governmental organisations have received complaints from hundreds of women about the new laws prompting the organisation to seek legal advice on their constitutionality. The two organisations have responded to the concerns of women who have approached them and provided support to the plaintiffs.

The case is non-partisan and crosses all political party lines with the two organisations coming together to protect the rights of at least one hundred thousand women of all ethnicities who are affected.

FWRM and FWCC consider that the rights to equality, voting and​ identity are fundamental and that the constitutionality of the new laws must be tested in the Courts.

The two organisations will also be seeking contributions from the community to help fund this case.

Although on the face, the new laws appear gender neutral, they disproportionately affect some 100,000 women, and add to women’s financial and time burdens by requiring them to change their names in so many legal documents.

Queries regarding the case may be addressed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 FWRM wishes you peace, happiness and good health for 2022.

For any other queries relating to this Press Release please email the FWRM Communications Officer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 2136547