Police officers are being supported to help improve services and processes when responding to survivors of violence, most of whom are women.
Police deal daily with cases of domestic violence and other gender-based violence cases. This training, therefore, is aimed at helping police officers increase their knowledge and improve their understanding of gender, human rights, violence against women and girls and, in doing so, improve their skills to sensitively and professionally respond to female survivors who report gender-based violence.
Providing police with information about the importance of a survivor-centred response, and about the National Service Delivery Protocol for Responding to Cases of Gender Based Violence, is central to this week’s Best Practices for Police Response to Domestic Violence: Understanding the Law, Practice and using a Survivor-Centred Approach training, being held at the Warwick Fiji Resort, from the 4th to the 8thof February.
The training, organized by the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation is being held in partnership with the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO), which is providing technical training and funding support through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership).
The €19.5million (FJ$47.16million) Pacific Partnership programme is funded by the European Union and Australian Government with cost-sharing from UN Women.
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, said that most women who experience domestic violence don’t report it as they fear losing access to their children, home and community and, if a survivor of violence does report it is most commonly via their local police – “so it’s critical that we support members of the Fiji Police Force to understand laws and commitments in treating survivors respectfully”.
“This training will contribute to a wider understanding of the laws and regulations that deal with domestic violence, which is an area that Fiji Police Force officers are dealing with in their daily work. It will also give prominence to the National Service Delivery Protocol and how it can help police officers to support survivors of domestic violence better and contribute to overall reduction in family violence in Fiji.”
The Service Delivery Protocol commits the Fiji Police Force, Judicial Department, Legal Aid Commission, civil society frontline services, Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, to better coordinate their services to ensure survivors of gender-based violence receive quality, timely support. It was launched in 2018 by Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and developed by the National Taskforce on the National Elimination of Violence against Women, is an important component of the training.
Minister Vuniwaqa also said that the Fijian Government in its pledge to eliminate violence against women has made commitments at various levels that can help us change the way our women are treated.
She added that the National Development Plan places priority on empowering women to reach their full development potential and its commitment in providing positive and innovative approaches to achieving gender equality and to eliminating discrimination and violence against women, promoting gender-based violence prevention.
“Fiji is equipped with the Domestic Violence Act to ensure justice and safety is given priority in cases of violence within homes and also the National Gender Policy, which defines gender-based violence and demands the commitment of stakeholders in this area, amongst several other aspects of women’s development to ensure women live a life free from violence and discrimination”.
Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Shamima Ali, explained that the police have a critical role in ensuring laws are enforced, and in helping to coordinate government and other services to ensure better access to support women, girls and child abuse survivors.
“Last year’s launch of the Service Delivery Protocol really binds our services together by clarifying good practices and exactly what each of our services offer, including police, to ensure laws are enforced and that survivors are treated with the dignity, respect and care they deserve,” Ms. Ali said.
“In the past, a common habit for police, health and other officers was to try and help survivors of domestic violence to return to the perpetrator, often her husband, ‘to keep the family together’ but we know from research that doesn’t stop the violence and can have very harmful impacts on the family,” said Ms. Ali.
“The best way to end violence against women and girls is to ensure our laws are enforced so there is zero tolerance for the horrendous crime of domestic violence, and to provide access to quality support services for survivors to help them recover.”
Deputy Representative of UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO), Sarah Boxall, highlighted the importance of the workshop in ensuring frontline police understand the importance of a survivor-centred approach when implementing Fiji’s laws and the Service Delivery Protocol’s multi-agency approach.
“We know that how women and girl survivors are treated within the frontline care system, such as at their local Community Police Post, has a great impact – positively or negatively – on their care and healing,” Ms. Boxall said.
“This underscores how critical it is for police, health and medical, legal, crisis centre and other service providers to be operating from the same set of guidelines and principles that promote survivor-centred care and treatment, and in line with national legislation and policies,” she said.
“At a global level, UN Women plays a lead role in supporting national governments to improve the coordination and governance of service delivery, and we’re privileged to work alongside the Government of Fiji and frontline service providers who work tirelessly to support women, children and families to heal and recover from gender-based violence.