NEWS

Pacific Shame

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says family violence in the Pacific is appalling and a regional shame. He adds that it is a crisis because it is woefully, unacceptably high. Mr
30 Apr 2015 11:43
Pacific Shame

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says family violence in the Pacific is appalling and a regional shame.

He adds that it is a crisis because it is woefully, unacceptably high.

Mr Bainimarama told the Pacific Women Parliamentary Partnership Forum at Novotel Suva Lami Bay yesterday that the crisis must be addressed urgently.

“It is an issue of vital importance for every society, every government. And it is a fundamental test of our values as Pacific people which, I am sad to say, we are failing,” he said.

“We must do a lot more to stop it.”

Mr Bainimarama said: “The Government I lead takes this issue extremely seriously. Tackling domestic violence is at the core of our efforts to improve the position and status of Fijian women generally.

“To empower them. To give them more of a stake in our economy. To enrich their lives and those of their families. To enable them to reach their full potential. And above all, to provide them with an environment free from intimidation and fear.

“At a government level, we have zero tolerance for domestic violence in Fiji. Whether it is men beating women, women attacking men, parents hitting children. It is not acceptable full stop. And we have given instructions to all the instruments of state that the perpetrators of domestic violence are to be subject to the full force of the law.

“For too long, Fijian society – in common with other Pacific societies – has turned a blind eye to what goes on in the privacy of people’s homes. Worse, we’ve tolerated, even encouraged, a culture in which spouses or partners are entitled to use violence to resolve disputes or bring supposedly errant family members into line. For too long, there was a saying in Fiji that so-and-so “deserved a hiding”. But those days are over.

“Put simply, there is no excuse whatsoever for our men to treat women badly. And while we know that some women can also be capable of violence in a family setting, the overwhelming majority of cases involve violence by men against women. And, of course, violence against children – the most vulnerable of all.

“Here in Fiji, the issue is a burning one after a string of incidents in which women have been killed. In the latest, we lost one of Fiji’s best and most respected journalists, Losana McGowan, in an alleged incident of domestic violence that shocked not only those who knew her but the entire nation.

“Yet these killings are merely the most obvious manifestations of a culture that we know extends across the Pacific of men resorting to violence against women in domestic confrontations. The days of sweeping the extent of this crisis under the proverbial mat for cultural reasons or to save face are over. The time for action to bring this scourge to an end is long overdue.

“I’m very pleased that you have chosen to make this issue the theme of this gathering. And I urge you all – no matter where you come from – to use this Forum to send the strongest possible message to the region and the world that domestic violence in the Pacific is now a matter not only for legitimate public discussion in our societies but that zero tolerance is the only option.

“Where there is a reluctance to confront the extent of the problem, we need to force it onto our national agendas. And where there is a lack of political will to address family violence, those governments and politicians must be shamed into action.

“Men must be repeatedly told what I tell our menfolk in Fiji: that real men don’t hit women. Real men protect women and treat them as equals. And women need to be encouraged to stand up more for themselves – to keep repeating the mantra that violence is unacceptable in any setting whatsoever, let alone the family. Which is the heart of every society and ought to be a place devoid of conflict. A place of love and acceptance in which our children can be reared and every family member can be safe.

“I’m proud of my own Government’s record in this area and pledge before you all today to redouble our efforts to change our own culture of accepting the unacceptable.

“Six years ago, my Government enacted the Domestic Violence Decree, a series of landmark provisions that had been put before previous governments for fifteen years but had been ignored. The first draft was formulated in 1994.The second nearly a decade later. But because of a shocking lack of political will, this draft lay gathering dust until my Government pulled it off the shelves and finally enacted its provisions in 2009.

“Each of you knows what a challenge this is in the Pacific context. But it is a crisis that we must confront and I hope that the exchange of ideas you will have here this week helps takes us in the direction that every Pacific society must take.”

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