Caption: Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre Deputy Coordinator Edwina Kotoisuva, researcher Angelyn Singh, and Coordinator Shamima Ali today at the discussion of some of the findings of the major national survey on violence against women carried out from 2010 to 2011. Photo: FWCC
SUVA, 31 January 2013 – A national survey of women in Fiji has found that more than three in five (64% of women) who had ever been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence or both by a husband or intimate partner.
A summary of the results of the survey carried out by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre released today is a culmination of two years of field work from 2010 to 2011 involving interviews with 3193 women aged between 18 and 64 years. It is the most extensive survey of women’s health and life experiences carried out in Fiji in a decade.
Overall, the survey – which was carried out using World Health Organisation methodology – shows that violence against women cuts across all aspects of their lives but with some groups more at risk than others.
“This survey confirms a lot of our experiences over the years and it also reinforces the need for a lot more work to be done in the community,” says FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali.
“We are proud of this piece of work and the fact that we have produced globally comparable data.”
The major findings of the research include the high prevalence and severity of violence in all forms within relationships, the higher risk Fiji’s rural women face of experiencing violence, and the likelihood that women who encounter intimate-partner violence are also subjected to controlling behaviours that undermined their access to health access to health care and their economic and social development and rights.
Of the total number of women interviewed, more than half of those who had ever had partners reported violence by their current or most recent partner (1782 out of 3035).
The survey found that rates of emotional, physical and sexual violence against women by husbands or partners are higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
However, there are also very high rates of all forms of violence against women across all divisions, age groups, education levels, ethnic groups and religions.
Women who experience one form of violence are more likely to also experience other forms with the survey finding a significant overlap between emotional, physical and sexual violence.
Women who experience physical or sexual violence are more likely to be subjected to controlling behaviours by their husbands/partners. These controlling behaviours directly undermine women’s access to health care and their economic and social development and rights.
For the majority of women living with physical violence by their husband/partner, the violence happens many times and is often severe, including being punched, kicked dragged, beaten up, choked burned or having a weapon used against them.
The survey also found that attitudes about violence against women could be contributing to the perpetuation of the problem of violence against women with many women agreeing with statements that undermine their rights and gender equality.
For example, three out of five women interviewed (60%) believe it is all right for a woman to obey her husband even if she disagrees with him. More than half (55%) of women interviewed believe that it is important for a man to show his wife/partner that “he is the boss”.
One in three women interviewed believe that it is the wife’s obligation to have sex with her husband even if she does not feel like it. However, the majority of women surveyed (77%) have a strong sense of sexual autonomy and believe that a woman has the right to refuse sex with her husband if she does not feel like it. However, between 8-15% women do not believe that a woman has the right to refuse sex in a range of different situations.
Some of the main findings on risk factors found that a women is significantly more likely to experience violence if her partner/husband has other relationships while with her, he fights with other men, he was hit as a child or if he drinks alcohol weekly or daily.
The survey found that a woman is more likely to experience intimate partner violence during her lifetime if several factors were true for her: if she was sexually abused over the age of 15; has three or more children; witnessed her mother being hit; is living with her partner or husband’s family; if her first sexual experience was forced.