Along with 27 other countries Fiji has joined the United Nations Women's global "Commit" campaign.
The campaign asks governments to commit to end violence against women and girls.
Presenter: Ricahrd Ewart
Speaker: Dr Jiko Luveni, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji
LUVENI: It is very significant for Fiji, particularly when we have reached a level of commitment to the elimination of violence against women that we can proudly show to the world that we are committed to this endeavour. And we have systems and infrastructures in place already to support this commitment. One of the five areas to be addressed in the women's plan of action 2010 to 2019 is the elimination of violence against women. Therefore a major component of our annual corporate plan that defines deliverables to be achieved during the year is the elimination of violence against women and girls. We have reactivated the inter-agency taskforce on violence against women, represented by our ministry, the police, Ministry of Health, education, i-Taukei, national planning, faith-based organisations, and of course our major player, the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre and other NGOs and … We already have a network of committed communities with their trained gatekeepers committee that have already declared zero tolerance of violence against women and children. And this is a campaign that we have embarked on in the last three years. So far there are 23 communities that have declared their intolerance of violence. We plan to increase this number by 30 this year. Also we have a network of trained facilitators as frontline workers who are advocates that have been trained by the Women's Crisis Centre and the police that continue to conduct awareness training, particularly of the vigorous support through decrees that have been enacted that prioritise support for victims. Given what I've just discussed I think Fiji is in a very good position to join this global effort.
EWART: Can I ask you a little bit about how signing to the campaign will impact on the way the police do their work in Fiji? One of the things I understand that will come out of this is a commitment to providing what's described as a 24-hour turnaround time where serious cases of violence against women and children are involved?
LUVENI: Yes we have already signed a memorandum of understand with the police with respect to this particular program, and that they have committed their provision of 24 hour turnaround time on serious cases, particularly with hearing complaints by communities that it takes too long a time for perpetrators to be taken to court and to move them away from the victims to protect the victims. They have also committed to increasing the female officers from five per cent to 20 per cent to increase female police in the frontline of service positions, so that will reflect a more friendly service to the women and children.
EWART: Now there's been quite a lot of debate in recent weeks in Fiji about the whole issue of violence against women, and the attitude to violence against women within Fijian society generally speaking. Is it coincidental therefore that you've now signed up to this campaign, or in a way is it just a case that the timing really couldn't be better in terms of reinforcing the general attitude against violence against women?
LUVENI: Actually the timing is really perfect because we have really good priority on this effort to end violence against women, given the increasing reports of violence and rape. And I think that could really be a reflection of the increased awareness that the issue has now become a public issue and it's being discussed in communities at the village level, in government, so that women are now able to, or have the courage to report such cases. And in the last three or four years we have put in place a program that intensifies our efforts to end or reduce violence against women and children. So we've got these restructures that I have explained earlier in place. This has been a long time commitment and our effort, so right now we are really in a position to really take off and show evidence of results of these efforts.
EWART: And you're off to New York as I understand it next week to attend a commission on the status of women. You'll be meeting to pledge the government's support, the Fijian government's support to eliminate violence against women and children. So whilst there are many issues of course where Fiji might be considered to be a little out of step with the rest of the world at the moment for the reasons we all know about, at least on this very important issue you're right at the heart of it?
LUVENI: Yes definitely, we'll be going there next week and I have a very good report on the program that we've achieved so far on this human rights issues that this government has very strong support for, and I will proudly be a signatory to this commitment that has been mooted by the UN women and I am looking forward to that.