The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement condemns all forms of violence against women and girls and acknowledges the decision by the Supreme Court to increase the tariff for child rape offences in Fiji.
The current tariff for child rape offences in Fiji is now 11 to 20 years imprisonment compared to the previous 10 to 16-year term.
“Jail sentences are meant to provide justice to the victim, remove the perpetrator from society so that he/ she realises the gravity of their actions and to serve society with a message that there is zero tolerance for such violence,” said the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) Executive Director Nalini Singh.
This is a timely reminder and action, as the global community marks the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence from November 25 to December 10. FWRM acknowledges the national commitment towards eliminating violence against women but reiterates that gender-based violence is everybody’s business.
“It’s imperative that all cases are reported to the police and that justice is served. We have seen higher sentences meted for sexual assaults and rape but we keep seeing worse and more heinous crimes against women and girls. One way to seek remedy is to have higher sentences but we have seen that this is not a deterrent,” she said.
In 2017, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) statistics revealed that victims/survivors under 18 years old accounted for 62 percent of rape/attempted rape/abduction with intent to rape compared to 59 percent in 2016. This was reported in FWRM’s ‘Balancing the Scales: Improving Fijian Women’s Access to Justice ODPP Data Analysis Annex’ that was released this year.
“In FWRM’s continued analysis we observe that the victim/survivors are getting younger and in certain cases, are merely one year old,” said Ms. Singh.
“It is not the formal justice sector agencies role only to work on this but it is everybody’s role to do his or her part. It is not the time to police women and girls but to ensure that our men and boys know that such acts are totally unacceptable,” she said.
Women and girls play an important role towards addressing these issues. FWRM believes in inter generational women’s leadership as a corner stone of a vibrant, safe, sustainable democracy.
“Women and girls face significant violence and make up majority of the statistics as victims/survivors. We are experts on our issues and have experiences that need to be heard and shared towards improving women and girls’ rights,” said Ms. Singh.
According to FWRM’s research, 9 in 10 victims and survivors of sexual offences in Fiji are women and girls. At the same time, 9 in 10 perpetrators of sexual offences in Fiji are men and boys.
“Attitudes towards women and girls need to change at all levels of society. What can be done in future, is a study on why men and boys feel the need to act in such ways. World over we know that rape and sexual violence is about power over the victim/ survivor. It is because as a society we don’t value women and girls as equal,” said Ms. Singh.
“Women must not see this as normal behavior and men must realise that they are wrong and violating the law. For anyone who conducts him or herself this way, the formal justice system will see you behind bars.”