The Fiji Women's Rights Movement has assessed 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 and some women were calling in with serious injuries.
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.
According to the assessment by the FWRM, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre reported a total of 795 calls of gender-based violence to the National Domestic Violence helpline for the months of January to April alone.
It says in April, 66% of the 527 genuine calls made to the helpline during the month were by women.
The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre noted that these number of calls would be accounted for a year but in this case, it is for 3 weeks.
Other calls were concerning cases dealing with rape, attempted rape, child abuse, COVID-19 related calls and calls from women lacking food and basic necessities.
There were also calls from men facing violence by their family members due to loss of jobs.
According to the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, some women were calling in with serious injuries.
The FWCC referred these cases to Police where possible and in cases where women were badly injured, Police had either taken the perpetrators out or relocated the women to a safer place.
The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement assessment also looked at statistics by Police which says domestic violence cases decreased by 12% for the reporting period which included the Lautoka lockdown from 19th March to 14th April.
According to those Police statistics, when the nationwide curfew was implemented and put into force there was slight decrease in the number of cases within a domestic setting.
They also stated 96% of the cases were assault based offences and the remaining 4% was dealing with sexual-based offences.
It was also assessed that 40% of the cases recorded by Police were related to sexual assault while 60% were related to physical assault.
Police say all perpetrators recorded for these offences were male and they took place in a domestic setting.
Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Executive Director Nalini Singh says 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 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.
She says there are a number of reasons why this is happening and this includes the inability to access these services as the women were confined with the perpetrators.
The Fiji Women's Rights Movement believes that women and girls were unable to report these matters due to the curfews, lockdowns and being confined with the perpetrators.
They have recommended from the assessment 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.
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