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Fiji's Ministry of Women has condemned cases of violence against women reported over the weekend and insists it can be put to an end by addressing root causes being gender inequality and discrimination against women.
This comes in light of the recent media reports of deaths that have resulted due to violence against women. Losana McGowan, 36, died after an argument with her partner at their flat at the weekend.
In Lautoka, a 26-year-old woman was in critical condition at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after her husband allegedly poured an inflammable liquid on her and set her on fire.
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar says violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights.
“Women are the backbone of the society, they play a crucial role in nurturing of the children, men, elderly and family members. When women and girls become victims of domestic violence and abuse, it affects the entire family and it causes emotional, mental, physical anguish that victims suffer through lifetime,” Akbar said.
She says as nation Fiji has to collaboratively address this issue.
“Violence against women not only affects the victims but the children who experience violence at home. Not only it affects their education, but witnessing violence will have lifelong repercussions, resulting in children having violent behavior in their future. It negatively affects the families and communities at large.
“As a nation, we cannot allow this to continue and we cannot be passive; we must work together to join hands and intensify effort to eliminate this scourge.
As a nation, I urge us all to break the silence and condemn such acts that are demoralizing and dehumanizing. We must commit ourselves to take a collaborative stand to eliminate all forms of violence that affects our women and girls so that they can experience the personal security to which they are rightfully entitled,” she said.
She has also called on families and communities to report the cases of violence and provide the needed support to the victims of violence.
“The ministry works together with Non-Government Organisations like Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre. There are agencies like FWCC, Medical Services Pacific and Empower Pacific that provides counselling services and have the expertise when dealing with cases of domestic violence.
“The ministry will soon embark on the reviewing of its Memorandum of Understanding with the Fiji Police Force to address the gaps in the implementation of the various decrees pertaining to the protection of women and children,” Akbar said.
Commissioner of Police, Bernardus Groenewald in his recent statement had said that women should make use of the Domestic Violence Decree whilst faced with relationship problems.
“It is equally important that the law enforcement agencies and custodians of the Domestic Violence Decree to ensure the protection, safety and wellbeing of women and children,” Akbar said.
“The government promises the full and effective realisation of gender equality through its Constitutional provision, the National Gender Policy, budgetary allocation; the laws and recognition of the work of women’s civil society organization.
“The Ministry with the support of its partners will work to ensure the full and effective implementation of our National Gender Policy, which will involve Gender Mainstreaming through gender sensitization of the whole of government machinery.".
Meanwhile, the fifth Fiji Women’s Forum got underway in Suva today with a lighting of a candle and moment of silent dedicated to women’s human rights defenders including the late Losana McGowan.
Throughout the forum, the 50 women leader participants will keep a candle burning for Losana to remember her commitment to her various advocacy roles in particular as a women's human rights defender.
McGowan died over the weekend after she was allegedly assaulted by her partner.
In a special tribute to McGowan, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the FemLINKPACIFIC, Dr Rajni Chand, remembered the former journalist as one who was well-liked and passionate in her work.
“She was part of FemLINKPACIFIC’s journey from 2004 to 2014 as programme volunteer and also as a member of the Board of Trustees and participated in the first FWF retreat last year.
She had to resign from our Board when she joined the Elections Office. She was also a member of the FWRM young women's collective and a communications adviser.
“Losana was a key advocate of “Section J” and supported the development and production of a range of media initiatives including suitcase radio broadcasts and she skilfully segued between a range of media in particular radio and print media and during her involvement of organising suitcase radio broadcasts I saw her easily draw out stories and experiences from young and old alike. She was able to use her media skills for civil society, development agencies and private sector.
“Throughout the forum we will be burning a candle for Losana who was a member of our close community and as a reminder of how intimate partner violence reaches everywhere, no matter where you come from or what field you work in. We remember her as another women's human rights defender we have lost too soon. Let us also recommit to amplifying our voices and enhance our collective action to denounce gender-based violence in all its forms,” she said
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