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Stop The Sex Assault, Local Women Tell Men

SUVA: Violence against women continues to be the most serious human rights violation in the Pacific on a daily basis, says Shamima Ali, coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, the Daily Post reports.

Ms Ali made the comment at the three-day regional workshop co-hosted by the Human Rights Commission, Institute of Justice and Applied Legal Studies and the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, held in Suva.

She said sexual assault was the result of a belief by men that they had unrestricted sexual access to their wives, partners - or any women.

This attitude was an entrenched social belief [that] women somehow brought sexual assault upon themselves. She said this was reinforced by Pacific Island laws and other institutions.

Ms Ali told the workshop there were several forms of violence against women, which were prevalent in the region. These include domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and child sexual abuse.

The crisis centre has in the last five years lobbied for separate laws encompassing domestic violence. In the process they have had on-and-off talks with various members of the judiciary.

Every year they have been assured [that] there would be progress on domestic violence laws. To date nothing has materialised.

The crisis centre is preparing itself for more intense lobbying.

This is due to a recent experience where a paper [which] had been presented was shouted down by senior members of the judiciary.

The paper had identified the needs for domestic violence laws. The women were told that they were making a mountain out of a molehill, mem were provoked into attacking women, and women were not the only ones subjected to violence.

Ms Ali said the comments were totally insensitive.

She said women in Vanuatu faced the same hostility as their Fiji counterparts.

Fiji police statistics revealed [that] there were 397 cases of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault in 1998.

This was the trend in most Pacific countries. Despite this fact, sexual assault remained the most under-reported crime in the Pacific.

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