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Call For Minimum Standards At Refuge Homes

Press Release On Behalf Of The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre

SUVA (16 November 2011) – Refuge homes and shelters for women survivors of violence in Fiji need to set ethical standards and be monitored for compliance, a conference on the elimination of violence against women in Suva has heard.

Fiji has a handful of shelters, some mainly for children and others for vulnerable mothers and their children, but there is still a great need for refuges specifically for women escaping from violent family situations.

Edwina Kotoisuva, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s deputy coordinator, said while some refuge homes are doing admirable work, there are some which put vulnerable women at further risk of abuse because of a lack of ethical policies.

She said institutions which deal with women survivors of violence need to put in place codes of ethics that comply with international standards of care that are rights based.

“It is important that when shelters or emergency accommodation facilities are set up, they are guided by a code of ethics,” says Ms Kotoisuva.

Some of these principles include confidentiality, non-discrimination, refraining from using professional relationships for personal or monetary gain, and preventing exploitation of refuge residents.

The discussions on shelter homes arose during the National Network Meeting on the Elimination of Violence Against Women organised by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC).

Into its second day, the meeting has heard about the challenges facing those in various sectors dealing with gender-based violence, from government departments to NGOs and community organisations.

Also raised during the day, was the challenges faced in monitoring homes responsible for children and young people. The Social Welfare Department has set nine minimum standards for refuge homes that host children, but there are no specific standards for privately-run homes for women.

During the meeting, delegates are sharing their knowledge and expertise on the processes involved in dealing with specific issues on gender-based violence. For example, many delegates were surprised to learn that a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) can be obtained at any time of the day or night from a magistrate or other officer empowered to do so; police officers do not need to wait until the morning or the start of the week to get a DVRO.

The national network meeting gathers about 100 delegates including representatives from the Fiji Police Force, Social Welfare Department, Provincial Councils as well community, disability representatives, faith-based organisations and women’s groups from diverse locations such as Taveuni, Vanua Levu, Naitasiri and Serua, and the Western Division.

The meeting is hearing from those working in the field of gender-based violence on topics such as the opportunities and challenges within the law and understanding better the shelter services available for survivors of violence.

At the end of the meeting the participants will develop strategies for the next two years to help them work in a more cohesive and effective manner in eliminating violence against women in communities across Fiji.

The meeting is supported by Australian Aid.

ENDS

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