Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act 2009 em­pow­ers Fi­jian women

Fiji Sun - - EXPLAINER - Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

It was the Bain­i­marama-Gov­ern­ment in 2009 that brought about laws re­lat­ing di­rectly to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

That de­cree was passed as the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act of 2009 by the Fi­jiFirst Gov­ern­ment.

One of the best fea­tures of this leg­is­la­tion was the no-drop pol­icy when a case of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is lodged at any po­lice sta­tion around the coun­try.

This means that once a part­ner- be it a wife, a de-facto part­ner or a hus­band lodges a com­plaint of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, that mat­ter should be taken to court and there would be no form of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween the par­ties in the po­lice sta­tion. This has been a very em­pow­er­ing Act for Fi­jian women. We have all heard sto­ries about how af­ter a

The Fiji Women’s Cri­sis Cen­tre re­ports that 64 per cent of women in in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships have ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence ...

po­lice sta­tion rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, more beat­ings have en­sured at homes. On that note, hav­ing a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment charged for as­sault­ing his wife is un­ac­cept­able. A strong stance needs to be taken on this mat­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the Fiji Women’s

Cri­sis Cen­tre, Fiji’s rates of vi­o­lence against women are “among the very high­est in the world”.

The Fiji Women’s Cri­sis Cen­tre re­ports that 64 per cent of women in in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships have ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence from their part­ner, in­clud­ing 61 per cent who were phys­i­cally at­tacked and 34 per cent who were sex­u­ally abused.

Why the no-drop pol­icy is so im­por­tant?

In Fiji, it takes a lot for a woman to turn up at a po­lice sta­tion to lodge a com­plaint against her part­ner. While the Act cov­ers men too, in­stances where a man has filed a com­plaint against a woman for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence are far and few.

Of­ten times, the com­plaint by the male part­ner is a form of re­tal­i­a­tion af­ter an ini­tial com­plaint has been lodged.

So, while it takes a lot of courage to take that one step of go­ing to lodge a com­plaint, there are many in­stances in which a woman may want to change her mind - fam­ily pres­sure, ques­tions about who would look af­ter the chil­dren are some things go­ing through her mind.

In such cases, we look at the ju­di­ciary to make the right de­ci­sion. Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is never a small mat­ter which can qui­etly be swept un­der the carpet.

Re­peat of­fend­ers are the worst and strict ac­tion needs to be taken, es­pe­cially against those who think they are above the law.

Jy­oti Pratibha

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