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1 in 5 women victim of violence in New Caledonia

One in five women victim of violence in New Caledonia : paper

NOUMEA, March 8 (OFO) - One in five women in New Caledonia were victims of violence, regardless of their social or ethnic group, daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports on Wednesday.

The paper quotes sexual, moral, physical violence as the main types of abuse New Caledonian were suffering.

But the topic, like in many other places in the Pacific, is usually hushed and subject to the "law of silence" because of the taboos it implies. Most of the victims are either afraid, or ashamed and they rarely take the matter to court.

A recent study quoted in the newspaper says the victims may come from varied social and ethnic backgrounds.

Contributing factors were promiscuity, precarious living conditions or alcohol consumption.

In Nouméa's Gaston Bourret territorial hospital, the outpatients and emergency services are crowded with cases of violence against women, an estimated one case out of two.

However, for the past few years, some things have changed.

A new legislation which came into force in 1996 pinpoints domestic violence as an "aggravating factor".

Non-governmental organisations and associations have also started to devote their work to the defence of women's rights.

In 1991, a so-called "mission for women's rights" was born and since aims at protecting, inform and train women to help them have access to a "normal social life".

In 1992, the same association has also set up a family counselling centre in Nouméa, where women can find psychological, legal and medical support.

Other associations like "women and domestic violence" or "SOS sexual violence" play a more listening and advisory part. They also help women in their rehabilitation process.

Local association here say things are now beginning to change : abused women are more and more outspoken, no longer ashamed and ready to take matters to Court, or simply leave their household.

Similarly, the number of abuse or domestic violence cases reported to the police is on the rise.

From the meager 4 complaints in 1996, current statistics show that in 1997, some 179 reports were filed for similar cases, 181 for 1998 and 191 for 1999.

Local association however say those figure should be multiplied by five in order to obtain a picture of the real situation.

+++niuswire

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