The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre welcomes the remarks by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on the problem of intimate partner violence in Fiji and across the Pacific.
Bainimarama acknowledged the “appalling incidence of family violence” needed to be addressed “as a matter of urgency” and that despite the government’s best efforts, a lot of work was still required to address it.
FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali said the Prime Minister’s remarks highlighted the issue of family violence at a high political level and forced officials to take seriously the zero-tolerance policy towards domestic violence.
“The Prime Minister’s comments about the crisis of family violence in Fiji and the Pacific is an important political step in giving new impetus to the laws that are already in place and that should be protecting women and children,” said Ms Ali.
Ms Ali continued: “The simple message that violence is not acceptable in any form is a milestone event for the struggle to eliminate violence against women and children in Fiji.”
However, Ms Ali said it was now up to the relevant officials, especially the police force and social services, to enforce the laws relating to domestic violence.
“We need police officers who know the laws relating to family violence and who will not be influenced to ignore them or who would advise women against seeking redress through the judicial system.”
She said that laws governing domestic violence were in place but that police needed to do more to put them into action and to refrain from passing judgement on those who report cases or from bringing cultural considerations into play.
“The Police Commissioner and all officers under him need to know thoroughly the legal provisions in place and that is also something Bainimarama has acknowledged,” said Mr Ali.
The zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence has, in theory, been in place since the late 1990s, but has only been sporadically implemented. Ms Ali said with Bainimarama’s unequivocal calling out of the government services that should be implementing this policy, it is now up to the relevant officials to begin to put it into practise.
“We look forward to working in greater collaboration with the government and its agencies to better address the issue of family violence at all levels,” Ms Ali.