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FWRM Publishes Assessment Of Women’s Access To Justice In Fiji During COVID-19 Pandemic

FWRM today published new research focused on women’s access to justice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study titled, ‘Assessment of Women’s Access to Justice in Fiji during COVID-19 Pandemic’ is supported by the Australian Government through the We Rise Coalition. This is a continuation of FWRM’s work improving Fijian women’s access to justice.

Fiji has one of the highest rates of violence in the world, with 64 per cent women experiencing violence from their intimate partners in their lifetime. Taking into crisis situations exacerbate the rates of violence experienced by women. FWRM undertook an assessment of statistics to understand women’s access to justice during COVID-19 pandemic.

The assessment analysed data released by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) in comparison with statistics from formal justice sector agencies on the violence faced by women during the lockdown period forced by the pandemic.

According to the research, FWCC reported that a total of 795 calls of gender-based violence were received by the National Domestic Violence helpline for the months of January to April alone. In April, 66% of the 527 genuine calls made to the helpline during the month were by women.

“The analysis of calls made to FWCC compared to reports lodged with the Fiji Police Force, statistics from Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and Fiji Judiciary reflects that whilst there is a high number of women calling the National Domestic Helpline 1560 to seek assistance, the same did not translate to women seeking assistance from the formal justice sector agencies. There are a number of reasons why and this includes the inability to access these services as the women were confined with the perpetrators,” said Ms Nalini Singh, Executive Director of FWRM.

FWRM believes that women and girls were unable to report these matters due to the curfews, lockdowns and being confined with the perpetrators.

Recommendations from the assessment include that the National Domestic Violence Helpline continues to operate, as it is an essential service provided, and further strengthened collaboration between Fiji Police Force with women’s support service provider such as Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre to continue the provision of necessary services to victims/survivors of domestic violence in Fiji. Additionally, for Fiji Media to play a crucial role in disseminating information relating to court operations particularly for Domestic Violence cases.

“There is an urgent need to undertake more research into understanding the exact barriers that women continue to face in reporting violence to formal agencies, particularly during the pandemic. There has been a lot of investment in our formal justice sector agencies about how services must be provided to women who experience violence, so this is the time for all those to be functioning well,” Ms Singh said.

FWRM is in the process of finalising subsequent research on the analysis of women’s experiences in accessing formal justice during COVID-19, the same will be published soon.

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