16 Dec 2013

Women suffer from high rates of partner violence in Fiji

6:10 pm on 16 December 2013

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is shocked by the results of a survey it carried out which found about 70 percent of women suffer from some form of violence by their husband or partner.

Women were interviewed using a standardised World Health Organisation survey, which focussed on the prevalence of sexual, physical, and emotional violence against women in an intimate partner relationship.

The co-ordinator of the Centre, Shamima Ali, told Bridget Tunnicliffe the result ranks Fiji as the fourth worst from about 20 countries which have participated.

SHAMIMA ALI: Over 3,000 women were consulted or interviewed, and we find that Fiji is ranking quite high on the world list of violence against women, that 72%, 73% of women suffer from all forms of violence - sexual, physical and emotional violence. And I think about 66% of women are in intimate partner relationships which are violent and suffered violence in their relationships.

BRIDGE TUNNICLIFFE: Do women have a tendency to keep any abuse they may be receiving by their partner to themselves?

SA: Definitely. About 60% of women believe it's alright for a woman to obey her husband if she disagrees. So these things are internalised. And very few women access services or tell anyone about it. So there is still that whole conspiracy of silence, both for the individual to whom it is happening and also for the community that she lives in. A lot of men who do this, they actually believe that it is their right and this is how women should be treated, to keep them in line, keep them in control. And we've given women a second-class status in our societies and therefore they are very, very vulnerable to abuse from men.

BT: And do you have any plans to try and tackle this?

SA: Oh, definitely. We've been working in this area for nearly 30 years. There's a lot of things. But because this issue is so inter-generational and because the advances we make in eliminating violence against women and girls are so incremental, it takes a long time. We have seen some changes, but definitely this survey really indicates to us where more work needs to be done. And it's not only in our communities. Definitely we need to reach the rural areas because that's where it is highest, the maritime areas, and so on. But we also have to work with the legislators, the policy makers, the people in authority, to take this issue seriously. So that part of the advocacy and lobbying, we are also going to concentrate on. And also we've got faith-based organisations - we need to work a lot more with them - and traditional leaders and so on. So a whole lot of work will be generated and we're already planning for this through this survey.