Based on global and Pacific evidence, the impacts and
implications during crisis and emergencies are different for women and men.
COVID-19 is already driving similar trends, showing a rise
of domestic violence globally.
With Fiji confirming its first two cases of the COVID-19
virus last week, and the country taking precautions against further spread of
the virus, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Honourable
Mereseini Vuniwaqa, says the safety and security of women and girls, including
those with disabilities and marginalised groups, is top priority.
“Through the Safety
and Protection Cluster, my Ministry is working closely with the signatories to
the National Service Delivery Protocol, such as the Police, key government
ministries, frontline service providers such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre,
Medical Services Pacific, Empower Pacific, Salvation Army, and others to ensure
that women and girls are protected, and perpetrators do not use this situation
as an opportunity to commit violence. Our
National Domestic Violence Helpline 1560 and the Child Helpline Fiji 1325 will
continue to be fully operational 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.”
In China, activists have reported a surge in domestic
violence cases as millions of people have been under quarantine. Some police
stations received as many as three times more reports of domestic violence
since February than during the same month the previous year. In the
United States, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that a growing
number of callers say that their abusers are using COVID-19 as a means of
further isolating them from their friends and family.
Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre Coordinator Shamima Ali says the
Centre is ready to support women and girls, as always.
“We have seen the rise in domestic violence cases happen before during political crisis’ and natural disasters. We support recommended public health measures and strategies such as “social distancing”, put in place to contain the virus, but acknowledge that it may be used as a mechanism by perpetrators to further isolate women from family and social networks, creating a potentially dangerous environment for physical, sexual, and emotional violence as well as coercive control which can severely hamper women’s access to support, as well as access to health services and justice. The National Toll free 24-hour helpline 1560 will be fully operational as well as all FWCC branches’ 24-hour lines.” Minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa added, “Ministry of Women Children and Poverty Alleviation will be working in close collaboration with UN Women as technical partner and other relevant stakeholders to ensure effective coordination of services for prevention