Fiji PM's violence condemnation rings hollow for some
The Fiji PM's condemnation of violence towards women is ringing hollow for some who suffered at the military's hands.
The Fiji Prime Minister's condemnation of violence towards women is ringing hollow for some who suffered beatings at the hands of his military after the coup.
Frank Bainimarama said his government would be taking a hard line against violence towards women, a move which has drawn widespread praise, but some are questioning whether that hard line will apply to the military.
Jamie Tahana reports.
At the opening of a women's centre in Kadavu last week, the Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, made an appeal to the men of Fiji to think long and hard about the treatment of women in the country.
He quoted police statistics for what he called a national shame, saying that there are currently 739 cases of sexual assault against women before the courts and many more for domestic assualt.
Commodore Bainimarama said he has issued instructions to the police to take a zero tolerance approach to violence against women.
FRANK BAINIMARAMA: If anyone hits or mistreats a woman in any way, they had better watch out. Because we are going to come down very hard. They are going to feel the full force of the law. I want every Fijian to think long and hard about this and remember one thing above all else. Real men don't rape women and sexually abuse children. Real men don't beat women. Weak men beat women. Pathetic men. Men who use violence to get their way. It's criminal and it's unacceptable. So I appeal to every Fijian male. Be a man. Treat women properly. Treasure them. Protect them.
The coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, says 739 reported cases are shocking, they represent only about ten percent of the real figure. However, she says it is a very positive step for Commodore Bainimarama to speak out in such strong terms.
SHAMIMA ALI: It's a good thing that at that level someone is speaking out and he made a very, very good stand and [is] going to come down on perpetrators rather than, usually people say 'women look out. They have to take care so they don't get raped' and so on. So he's sent out a very good message.
Shamima Ali says that now Commodore Bainimarama has talked the talk, she expects him to walk the walk and implement strong measures.
SHAMIMA ALI: We have problem areas around law enforcement, around the court procedures; we've got good legislation but putting it into practice is problematic so women's access to justice services in the case of sexual assault [or] domestic violence is impacted on.
But a Fiji businesswoman says Commodore Bainimarama's call is a complete contradiction of his past actions. Laisa Digitaki, who was taken from her home and severely beaten by soldiers after an anti-coup protest in 2006, says while it's positive that the Prime Minister is speaking out against domestic violence, his words ring hollow.
LAISA DIGITAKI: My point is that he is the Commander of the Fiji military forces that have been torturing and killing and maiming civilians. So my point is that he doesn't have the real heart, the good heart to be able to look after us.
Laisa Digitaki says the Prime Minister must address questions surrounding the violent detention of opponents post-coup before he can be taken for his word.
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