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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

11 February 2021

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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JOINT MEDIA RELEASE: FWRM and FWLA host seminar for legal practitioners on women’s access to justice

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                  JOINT MEDIA RELEASE: FWRM and FWLA host seminar for legal practitioners on women’s access to justice

                                                                                                        11/02/2021

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) in partnership with the Fiji Women’s Lawyers Association (FWLA) hosted a seminar on Gender Stereotypes in Sexual Violence Cases in Fiji for legal practitioners in Suva yesterday.

The seminar offers Continuing Legal Education (CLE) for legal practitioners and is part of a series of discussions addressing Fijian women’s access to justice supported by the Australian Government through the We Rise Coalition.

“We’re grateful to be able to collaborate with FWLA and strengthen the role of legal practitioners to improve Fijian women’s access to justice. Legal practitioners are the key actors when women try to address their issues of violence and they need to be aware of the barriers so that they do not further reinforce them,” said FWRM Executive Director Nalini Singh.

“Gender stereotypes are a barrier to access to justice for all parties to the legal system, whether as a complainant, perpetrator or lawyers defending or prosecuting such cases. These are important issues to discuss because it affects us as a country and we as lawyers, must be able to educate ourselves to help address it. The monthly DPP statistics on violence against women and girls continue to worsen,” said FWLA President Mele Rakai.

The keynote speaker at the event was His Lordship Mr. Justice Rangajeeva Wimalasena. The panel included FWRM representative and lawyer Artika Singh, ICAAD representative Erin Thomas, senior lawyers Filimoni Vosorogo, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution’s Ms Kimberly Semisi, Fiji Law Society Council member, Ms Seruwaia Nayacalevu and Legal Aid Commission lawyer, Sokoveti Daunivesi. The seminar brought together over 120 legal practitioners from across Fiji including participants that attended through the webinar platform.

“Often, we only hear about the perpetrators, we don’t hear about the prosecutors and the challenges they face in dealing with survivors of sexual offences, be it sexual assault or rape. Survivors ranges in different ages, gender, sexual orientation and backgrounds. As lawyers we need to have a balanced view of the prosecution, the rights of defendants to a fair trial and ensuring that cases are properly tried with according to the relevant laws,” said Ms. Rakai.

Common stereotypes are tied to gender roles, such as men not being able to control themselves, or resist temptation and women being judged according to their behaviour or dress. Victim-blaming is rampant and women are often expected to react a prescribed way, such as resisting violence physically. Gender stereotypes in sexual violence cases are extremely harmful to women and undermine women's rights to access justice.

“There has been progress over the years and legislative reform to improve women’s access to justice. While the law continues to be strengthened, attitudes of legal practitioners are also important to ensure there is no discrimination. There should be no impunity for sexual abusers and moral policing of women in the law,” said Ms. Singh.

FWRM and FWLA hope to strengthen their partnership and promote improve awareness of key gender issues, such as gender-based violence and Fijian women’s access to justice.

END

For more information please contact FWRM Communications Officer Maryann Lockington at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.