25 Nov 2020

16 days of activism underway in Fiji

8:14 pm on 25 November 2020

The 16 Days of Activism Campaign against violence against women and girls begins in Fiji today.

Locals rally against gender-based violence.

Locals rally against gender-based violence. Photo: Supplied/FWCC

According to the Women's Crisis Centre, the campaign starts the International Day for the Eliminations of Violence against Women and ends on December 10, which is the International Human Rights Day.

The centre's coordinator Shamima Ali said violence against women and girls continued to be one of the major human rights violations in Fiji and the Pacific.

But Ali said through campaigns like this, the voices of survivors and activists can reach a crescendo that cannot be silenced any further.

The 16 Days Activism campaign started in the United States at the Women's Global Institute in New Jersey in 1991.

Ali, who attended the summit, said women from around the world expressed their concerns at the growing rates of violence against women and girls.

She said there were also concerns with how the services provided and legislations did not protect women.

"They did not protect women and girls from rape, domestic violence, child rape, sexual harrassment. So we decided to start this campaign.

"There is a need for the United Nations to recognise violence against women as a human rights violation.

"It's a campaign to address the issue, to end violence against women, and for governments to take responsibility through services, through changing legislation, policies and so on to better protect women and girls."

Ali said while there has been some progress made to put women on the agenda in Fiji, there is still more work to be done.

We still require more investment, leadership and action, she said.

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Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Ali said the issue of violence against women and girls is rooted in societal systems that uphold women's unequal status in society.

She said the centre continues to receive cases of violence against women on a daily basis.

The Covid-19 crisis has made matters worse, she added.

"From January to October this year, the FWCC and its branches have received 751 domestic violence cases, 67 rape cases, nine attempted rape cases, 42 child sexual abuse cases, 39 child physical, verbal, emotional abuse cases and 12 sexual harassment cases," Ali said.

She said most of the domestic violence cases go unreported in Fiji.

Ali said almost two in every three Fijian women in any intimate relationship had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

"In Fiji and the Pacific, the 16 Days campaign has not only put the focus on the continuing violation of women's human rights, it has also played a significant part in the movement for democracy, rule of law and human rights."

Ali said other significant dates during the 16 Days Campaign include:

25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women;

29 November: International Women Human Rights Defenders Day;

1 December: World Aids Day;

2 December: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery;

3 December: International Day of People with Disabilities;

6 December: White Ribbon Day to commemorate the Montreal Massacre;

9 December: International Anti-Corruption Day; and

10 December: International Human Rights Day.