CAPTION: Shamima Ali, Coordinator of FWCC. File photo.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) has expressed disappointment and frustration at the cancellation of their annual Reclaim the Night march by the Police. The march which has become an event synonymous with International Women’s Day in Fiji was called off by the Fiji Police today.
“We received a call early this afternoon from the Police informing us that our permit that we received on 19 February had been withdrawn due to security reasons,” said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of FWCC. “The march is about claiming spaces for women and girls in particular around the issue of sexual assault and the violation of their rights, so where is the threat?”
The FWCC says while the government has been making a lot of statements about sexual assault and the need for action, the withdrawal of the permit is in direct contradiction of this. “This is an opportunity for members of the public to join in and show their support for the issue and the show of public support is really important because it is a time to mobilise people around the issue,” said Ali. “Over the years we have seen families join in the march and this has been very reassuring because it is an indication that people want to join in and protest against rape and sexual assault.”
The FWCC says International Women’s Day is an important day for women all over the world and women in Fiji have always been a part of this movement. “It is a time when women throughout the country come together and mark the day and the need for the recognition of our rights. To not be allowed to march and gather to show our abhorrence for rape and sexual assault is truly an affront to the women’s movement in this country,” said Ali.
The FWCC says that while the Police are concerned about the security situation surrounding the march, they should give some credit to FWCC. “We have been doing these activities for nearly 30 years and we have done it in all different circumstances, including during times of instability. We understand the conditions of our permit and unlike other organisations and institutions we recognise the rule of law,” said Ali.
A great deal of effort has gone into the planning of the event. “We have spent quite a bit of time and money on planning and organising the event and women, men and children from all walks of life are looking forward to the event. We believe that it is quite callous of the Police to take away our permit at the 11th hour.
Ali says that while they were offered alternatives by the Police for a ‘gathering’, they have refused this option. “The march is about visibility and mobilising public support, so a small gathering is not an effective option for us,” said Ali.
“On the one hand, this regime is giving its assurances to the international community at the Commission on the Status of Women that Fiji is committed to efforts to eliminate violence against women. And yet, more and more we are seeing the erosion of rights in this country and to feel threatened by a group of women, young people and children is another a illustration of the type of unjust system that we live under.”
STATEMENT FROM THE FIJI POLICE
The permit for the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre to conduct its “Reclaim the night” march tomorrow evening, March 8th, has been cancelled.
Recent information received by the Police indicates that there are threats to public order and the march may represent a significant security risk both for the wider public and those involved.
We invite the Women’s Crisis Centre to resubmit its application to hold the march at a later date.