Caption: Shamima Ali: File Photo.
More and more women continue to visit the Fiji Women?s Crisis Centre on an annual basis, with cases ranging from domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and child abuse among others.
In 2013 alone, there were a total of 1183 women who came in for domestic violence cases compared to 1044 in 2012.
There were 45 cases of rape compared to 36 for 2012, 45 cases of sexual harassment compared to 30 the previous year and 566 other cases compared to 645 for 2012. In total, there were 1905 new cases that the FWCC and its branches dealt with in 2013.
Statistics revealed today by the FWCC go as far back as 1984 where there were just 5 cases of domestic violence, 3 of rape, no sexual harassment and no child abuse cases reported.
While this may seem like an alarming increase over the last 30 years, FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali stresses the importance of understanding the statistics and interpreting it correctly.
?Many people and even some media outlets continue to report that there is a rise in cases of domestic violence and related cases in the country. This is not true. Figuratively yes, numbers have gone up but I?ve said this time and again, cases have been there, it?s only now that women are bold enough to come forward and report what?s being done to them. If you look at our national survey that was released last December, you will find that most women even prefer not to report these cases because they fear victimisation and for some, they?ve even accepted the beatings as normal. But we are changing all that through our community education programs and through our counselling sessions which is why more and more women now know that this is wrong and that they have a place to go to.?
Other stakeholders like police, faith-based organisations and NGO?s have taken up the issue and have also contributed to the increase in reporting.
There was also a huge turnout in the number of women who came in for repeated counselling sessions.
In Suva alone, there were 1387 cases of repeated counselling of which 1073 were for domestic violence, 19 were for rape, 3 were for sexual harassment, 54 were for child abuse while 238 were for other issues.
In Nadi, 380 women came back for counselling, 297 were for domestic violence, 19 for rape, 1 for child abuse, 16 for sexual harassment and 47 for other issues.
In Ba, 335 women came back for counselling because of domestic violence, 7 came for rape, 4 for child abuse, 2 for sexual harassment and 64 for other issues, bringing the total to 412 women coming for repeated counselling.
Rakiraki had a total of 183 women coming back for counselling. 96 were for domestic violence, 1 for rape, 37 were for child abuse and 49 for other issues.
And in Labasa, 414 women came in for repeated counselling in 2013, 207 for domestic violence, 6 for rape, 15 for child abuse, 3 for sexual harassment and 183 were for other issues.
?The FWCC counsellors also offer individual advocacy for each woman, girl or child and support through medical, police, legal and housing processes. While the FWCC strives to provide best practice in terms of counselling and advocacy, there are many challenges in terms of service provision. But we are developing strategies as to how to deal best with these challenges,? said Ms Ali.