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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

28 March 2023

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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FWRM Press Release- Marriage: Not a License to Control Women’s Bodies 10/06/2022     

FWRM Press Release 

10/06/2022       
 
Marriage: Not a License to Control Women’s Bodies
The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement is concerned with recent media coverage questioning women's access to reproductive healthcare services in Fiji. Notably the discussions were engaged by concerned men during a consultation with the Minister for Health and Medical Services (MHMS). The men were concerned that women were using contraceptives without the consent of their husbands/partners, and stressed that any family planning initiated by women must have the consent of their husbands/partners as well.
Of all the socioeconomic issues that this consultation could focus its attention on, limiting the rights of women and girls to make informed reproductive healthcare decisions is their only concern when it comes to women's issues?
Why aren't the high rates of sexual offences, domestic violence, and sexual harassment that the majority of men and boys commit towards women and girls in this country, being the key priority area of concern?
Why aren't the men talking about the need for better access to healthcare services and resources for women and girls in their communities? 
And why is this consultation even given a national platform that will only perpetuate violence and discriminate against women and girls when they take proactive steps with their reproductive health?
When conversations around women’s bodies are generated in national discussions, duty bearers such as State representatives must ensure to not further perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. Fiji has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world, with more than 60% of Fijian women experiencing gender-based violence at least once in their lifetime.
This is not the time to fuel rhetoric around deciding how a woman (any woman) makes decisions regarding her own reproductive health. This is the time to take a stand against harmful rhetoric which may be used as an excuse to further perpetuate violence against women. Women are not the property of their husbands, and they should not be treated as such.
We reiterate Fiji's commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in “taking all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning”. These are concrete obligations that the State themselves have agreed to be bound by, and cannot refuse to implement. Equality for women, in all areas of life, including family planning.
Every day, women and girls are experiencing some form of gender-based violence or worse, losing their lives. Women and girls do the majority of unpaid care work and are employed in less secure jobs compared to men. Women and girls are at the frontline of the impact of tropical disasters and global pandemics. One of the leading causes of death for women is reproductive cancers. The issues are countless.
If men are genuinely eager to be involved from the outset, then couples' counselling is always available so that there is perspective on both sides on what family planning method to use, the rationale, symptoms and risks, and the health benefits for women in the long-term. However, let's do better to ensure that we are highlighting issues that matter and that will not, in any way, only discriminate against women and girls.
Ends
For media queries, please contact the FWRM Communications Officer Serelisoni Moceica on 8677 330 or email