Skip to main content

35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

02 December 2020

Author

Fiji Women's Rights Movement

Themes

New research shows Fijian Women’s Access to Justice Post Covid-19 worsens

FWRM_logo.png

Press Release: New research shows Fijian Women’s Access to Justice Post Covid-19 worsens

01/12/2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has heightened barriers for women’s access to justice according to  FWRM’s latest research that was launched yesterday.

The report titled, Fijian Women’s Access to Justice during the Covid-19 Response Period research was supported by the Australian Government through the We Rise Coalition. The research sheds light on the impact of the pandemic on violence against women and girls.

“Globally, we were seeing a rise in violence against women and girls because of the Coronavirus pandemic. It was concerning for Fiji because we have a shadow pandemic of gender-based violence that is widespread, pervasive and prevalent. This is a critical moment to monitor women’s access to justice and how it was impacted by the pandemic,” said FWRM Executive Director Nalini Singh.

Women all over the world experience gender based violence in the form of domestic violence in disproportionately high levels. Women in Fiji experience this in even higher percentages, with 64% of women having had ever experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime, with many having experienced it on multiple occasions, for prolonged periods of time. The Covid-19 pandemic excerbated violence against women and girls with a unique set of barriers such as the lockdowns, curfews and measures to restrict population movement. 

“The national domestic helplines recorded a significant increase in calls made by women soon after the nation recorded its very first case of Covid-19 but this did not correlate to reports lodged at the police station by women facing violence. The research looks closer at this discrepancy to identify what the barriers are for women who are trying to access justice,” said Ms. Singh.

Key findings from the research show that the top 5 critical considerations women take into account when deciding whether to report violence and/or seek the assistance of courts are, firstly, concern for children (53%), lack of financial means (41%), fear of discrimination/victimisation (by family/community members) (34%), fear of retaliation (by partners/spouses) (32%) and concern for treatment by Police (32%). It took women an average of 1890 days from the time of first incidence of violence till the time they reported the violence during and after the pandemic outbreak and response period. For some women, they reported the violence before the pandemic, and continued to make visits to the police after COVID-19 had reached Fiji.

One participant suffered violence for over 50 years, having had reported the violence multiple times, and still continued to suffer the violence repeatedly. For some women this was not their first time reporting the violence. There was one instance of a woman having to visit the police station over 20 times for one single complaint. Sixty-seven percent of the women consulted a family member or friend before going to the Police. Only 3% of women sought the assistance of the Legal Aid Commission, even though 69% stated that they needed assistance in completing written documents. Regrettably, 31% percent of the women interviewed stated that they did not feel safe at the police station.

“Gender based violence, particularly domestic violence, has been around well before the pandemic, and now that we are living in the “new normal” the pandemic has made it harder for women to access justice when experiencing gender based violence,” said Ms Singh.

The FWRM research team was supported by Stephanie Dunn of Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre as peer reviewer. The report builds on the important research undertaken by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (2013), which found that 64% of women in Fiji experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime. The Research Team analysed data gathered through surveys of women who sought to address their violence or family law issues through the formal justice system interviewing women in the Northern, Western and Central Divisions of Fiji.

The findings of this research contribute to the continued efforts of FWRM, as a research and policy lobbying civil society organisation (CSO), to demand better access to justice services for women facing gender based violence every day.

Ends.

For more information contact Communications Officer Maryann Lockington at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (+679)8677330