Opinion

Opinion: Increase in Violence Against Women, Children Worries Labour

We need to empower our women economically so that they have the means and the resources to stand up against violence or walk away from violent relationships. PARLIAMENTARY LEADER, FLP
17 Mar 2018 13:19
Opinion: Increase in Violence Against Women, Children Worries Labour
We need to empower our women economically so that they have the means and the resources to stand up against violence or walk away from violent relationships, says FLP

We need to empower our women economically so that they have the means and the resources to stand up against violence or walk away from violent relationships.

PARLIAMENTARY LEADER, FLP

The views and opinions expressed in the article below are entirely those of Aman Ravindra Singh and not the Fiji Sun.

Labour is extremely con­cerned at the growing in­cidence of violence against women and children in our society.

“Women face the highest levels of domestic violence in this coun­try and children are at their most vulnerable today,” said Labour’s recently appointed parliamentary leader Aman Ravindra-Singh, a hu­man rights lawyer.

“Statistics show that 64 per cent of our women, that is two in every three women we meet, have suf­fered some form of physical or sex­ual violence at the hands of their spouses or partners.

“This is shocking. It places Fiji among the very highest rates of violence against women in the world.”

A national survey by the Fiji Wom­en’s Crisis Centre in 2013 found that of the 64 per cent who were victims of VAW (Violence Against Women), 61 per cent were physically at­tacked and 34 per cent were sexu­ally abused. Another 20 per cent of women claimed they were sexually harassed at the workplace.

Equally alarming are the statis­tics coming from the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) office on abuse against children. Of the 444 recorded cases of sexual violence in 2017, 130 (29 per cent) of the vic­tims were under 18 years of age and mostly females. The youngest two victims were babies barely more than a year old.

It is clear that the current Govern­ment’s policies to tackle violence against women and children have been a failure in the past 12 years.

We need to get to grips with such heinous crimes in our society. It is indicative of a breakdown in mor­als, law and order, and may even reflect frustrations stemming from socio-economic problems.

Labour intends to put the issue of violence against women and chil­dren at the forefront of its policies in the lead-up to the 2018 General Election. We are very concerned about the vulnerability of our women and children.

It is one thing to utter rhetoric on women’s rights. But what are we actually doing on the ground to en­sure the protection and empower­ment of our women that is needed?

We need to empower our women economically so that they have the means and the resources to stand up against violence or walk away from violent relationships.

I would like to see more jobs are made available to women to provide that economic independence. If there are jobs available, more wom­en will be able to work. With work comes economic independence and with this comes the ability to look after your children.

If you are unemployed and the only source of income is an abu­sive, alcoholic or sadistic husband, obviously you do not have the op­portunity to lead an independent life.

Law and legislation:

While there are laws in place for the protection of women and chil­dren from violence, better laws can be introduced to address this issue.

The Government appears to only pay lip service to this serious issue. We cannot expect to make positive progress if we continue to apply the same solutions which have not worked.

Some of the main obstacles faced by women when reporting violence are:

  • the reluctance of Police to take action when a woman reports vio­lence from her husband/partner;
  • being ridiculed by Police at the station when reporting violence;
  • The social stigma associated when reporting violence and then being dragged through the system while not being able to receive re­dress in a satisfactory manner; and
  • Cultural attitudes and beliefs which give men a feeling of domi­nance and allows society to accept violence against women in a family set up.

Our cultural practices that en­courage reconciliation and forgive­ness as opposed to reporting to Po­lice and seeking legal redress, often deprive the victim of her right to seek redress and allows the perpe­trator to escape the full force of the law.

As a prominent women’s rights activist said some time back “it pri­oritises social cohesion ahead of the victim’s rights”.

Labour intends to work with so­cial and cultural organisations and NGOs to raise awareness of these issues, to ensure stricter law en­forcement and improved support services for victims.

The Government cannot continue to tackle this issue by applying the same solutions since it is very clear and evident that those solutions have failed and continued to fail over the last 12-year period.

We need solutions which can work and which can in turn show re­sults. As a nation our women and children must be protected from violence and abuse.

This will be a top priority for the Fiji Labour Party.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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