12 Dec 2005

Fiji women's groups criticise female minister of rights comments

2:39 pm on 12 December 2005

Women's groups in Fiji have lashed out at comments made by a female government minister who said human rights have adversely affected indigenous women.

The assistant minister for culture and heritage, Nanise Nagusuca, has told a meeting of an indigenous women's organisation that human, women's, children's and individual rights are eroding the indigenous national identity.

Mrs Nagusuca has urged women to accept only what is in accordance with traditional culture and values, with particular stress on hairstyles and dress codes.

But the director of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Virisila Buadromo, says the minister's comments undermine the work of local women, including indigenous women, to improve the lives of women in Fiji.

Ms Buadromo says even the government and her own party have stated their commitment to equal rights and freedoms for women.

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre says human rights must not be blamed for changing cultures.

The Centre's deputy director, Edwina Kotoisuva, says the minister's attitude is regrettable because it was women's groups which lobbied for the rights enjoyed by her today and which put her in a position of power.

The coordinator of Women's Action for Change, Noelene Nabuluivou, says the minister's comments are a big setback for women in Fiji and in the Pacific.