International Women’s Day: ‘Inspiring Change’

 64% or 3 out of 5 women who have ever been in an intimate relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence or both by a husband or intimate partner in their lifetime.

On 8 March, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre will commemorate International Women’s Day with the Annual ‘Reclaim the Night March’. The annual event is particularly focused on calling for end to sexual violence against women and girls, and that although there is a lot of violence that occurs in the home, violence against women also occurs on the streets, in bars and nightclubs, restaurants and other public spaces. The march symbolises reclaiming the streets, public spaces and the night, and that women should not be violated when taking up these spaces. The march will begin from the Flea Market and into the nightclub districts of Suva.

The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s National Research on Women’s Health and Life Experiences in Fiji (2010/2011) launched in December last year explored the prevalence, incidence and attitudes to intimate partner violence in Fiji with a major part of the survey focused on the prevalence of sexual violence in Fiji.

The survey shows that an alarming 81% of women living in the eastern division have experienced both physical and sexual violence, while 53% have experienced only sexual violence.

In relation to the prevalence of sexual violence by age, the survey showed that 38% of women between the ages of 25-29 have experienced sexual violence that is inclusive of rape, sexual harassment, indecent assault and other related sexual offences. The survey also indicates that there is still a high prevalence of women up to the age of 55 that continue to experience some form of sexual abuse.

The survey also reveals that 36% of the women have experienced sexual violence over their lifetime since the age of 15 by both non-partners and husbands/partners. Rape was classified as one of the most frequent sexual offences committed by intimate and non-intimate partners. The statistics also show that an alarming percentage of women experience sexual violence by non-partners with 70% stating that they were raped once or twice; 22% saying they were raped a few times, and 8% said many times.

Among those women who have been raped, almost 1 in 3 women (32%) said they were raped by more than one perpetrator; while the survey revealed that 2 in 5 women (39%) who had reported attempted rape were sexually abused by more than one perpetrator. In contrast, most survivors of child sexual assault (95%) reported that there was one perpetrator; and the remaining 5% had more than one perpetrator.

Worrying global figures reveal  that the combined prevalence of non-partner and intimate partner violence in Fiji (71%) is double the global estimate of 35.6%, while Fiji’s prevalence rate of non-partner sexual violence since the age of 15 (8.5%) is also higher than the global estimate of 7.2%.

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