EDITORIAL: Let’s Hear Women’s Cries For Justice And Do Something About It
Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development, says Mereseini Vuniwaqa.
The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation is absolutely spot on.
Despite the stark reminders of our shameful record of domestic violence and the strengthening of our law to counter this evil, it is sad to say that relationship violence is continuing unabated. Most of the victims are usually women in marriage and defacto relationships.
As you read this column, there are women and girls still reeling from the devastating impact of violence this month. It would be interesting to do a tally this month of the number of reported and unreported cases of domestic violence. The sum total would shock us and make us wonder about what is happening after a series of campaigns to highlight this problem. Even the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has spoken out about his serious concern of the cycle of violence and his Government’s zero tolerance against it.
Dr Jiko Luveni, the then Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation now Speaker of Parliament, had launched Domestic Violence Free Zones. She passed on the baton to Rosy Akbar, now Minister for Health and Medical Services, who did a sterling job in continuing the campaign.
Now, Mereseini Vuniwaqa is carrying the torch and she has continued the relentless push to eliminate gender violence. She was upfront when she spoke at the Provincial Youth Administrators workshop on Gender Violence at the Holiday Inn in Suva on Monday.
When we talk about gender violence we talk about human rights, democratic values and humanity.
The message going out at the beginning of 16 days of Activism on Gender Based Violence should be “enough is enough.”
We cannot continue on this path where we seem to have accepted this violence as a norm in our society.
We must all say that we do not tolerate or condone violence of any form under any circumstances.
Mrs Vuniwaqa says violence against women and girls knows no social, economic or national boundaries. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse in her lifetime. In Fiji, she says up to 72 per cent of women face some form of violence in their lifetime, mostly at the hands of their intimate partners.
That’s a damming statistic and underscores the magnitude of the problem that confronts us as a nation.
The culture of violence is deeply embedded in some cultures. In fact it is part of the cultural construct of those societies. It is also traced to cultures that are based on patriarchal lines.
Patriarchy has been defined by some, as a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence. It is sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality. The aim is to pass property to male heirs. Heroes of war hold this absolute power to do whatever they want.
In some cultures, men still cling on to this tradition and it is reflected in their attitude towards the opposite sex. Male chauvinism is a product of this tradition. This superiority complex gives abusers the idea that they can physically hurt women and girls because it is their right.
Well, these men need to know that it is not their right. They are breaking the law and will be held accountable.
Times have changed and they need to change their mindset. Everyone needs to speak out against violence. We must break away from the culture of silence and urgently address this problem. Let’s leapfrog the issue of cultural sensitivity and report any violence against women and girls.
Mrs Vuniwaqa says gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence. Victims of violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.
There are women among us suffering in silence. Let us hear their cries for justice and do something about it.