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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

31 March 2020

Author

Fiji Women's Rights Movement

Themes

NGOCHR and Rainbow Pride Foundation: Stop Victim-Blaming COVID-19 Patients

JOINT STATEMENT:

NGOCHR and Rainbow Pride Foundation: Stop Victim-Blaming COVID-19 Patients

31/03/2020

 The NGO Coalition on Human Rights and the Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) are deeply concerned and alarmed by the continuous wave of attacks and vilification against Fijians who have contracted the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

 National leaders and media have repeatedly published and made reproachful comments against the index patient in Fiji, a stark contrast to the PM’s earlier advice on the importance of respecting the privacy of the patients and keeping their personal information confidential.

 “The emotional violence and fear that they have already subjected the index patient to is unprecedented – no other country affected by COVID-19 have demonised, humiliated and dehumanised its index patient the way this country has.  We cannot talk about respecting the privacy of patients and eliminating violence against women and girls and yet perpetrating violence on the index patient by way of victim-blaming on national television and print media in the same breath. This is hypocritical.  These dehumanising acts need to STOP as it has not only deeply affected the index patient but also his family,” said Isikeli Tumaiwakaya Vulavou from Rainbow Pride Foundation.

 "The privacy of this patient has clearly been compromised by both government and the opposition with the ongoing political battle on who is to be blamed for importing the virus to Fiji. The citizens of this country are no longer interested in that conversation; they are now interested only in the steps government will take to introduce mass testing in Fiji to upscale the current measures that they have already put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus."

 The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is advising government and the Ministry of Health particularly in the response to this pandemic has clearly stated that “Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread’. In short, if people are trying to hide their illness to avoid discrimination, they are less likely to get tested or treated.

“This is not the time for division. Fear, intimidation and condemnation are counterproductive and will only risk further spread of this virus. We must stop this vitriol and put this energy towards a more responsive, inclusive and comprehensive human rights-based preventative strategy. We’ve reiterated this in the past few days and are calling on all our leaders and the media to be responsible at this time and avoid alienating those that are already affected and/or marginalised in our communities,” said NGOCHR Chair Nalini Singh.

 Using criminalising or dehumanising language feeds into stigma against COVID-19 patients, undermining empathy, and potentially fueling wider reluctance to seek treatment or attend screening, testing and quarantine. This MUST be STOPPED if we want people to come forward and visit our fever clinics or health facilities if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“We must never allow human rights to be collateral for national security and safety. It is most vital at this time. Protecting health, security and peace for people are human rights and in going forward, government and media must do better to ensure a rights-based approach when addressing COVID-19,” said Ms Singh.

END

For media queries:

NGOCHR: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RPF: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The Members of the NGOCHR include the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF), FemLink Pacific, Social Empowerment and Education Program (SEEP), and Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality Fiji. Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG) and Haus of Khameleon (HoK) are observers.