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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Women's Access to Justice

Access to Justice is a fundamental right, and a doorway of all other human rights. Yet, many women and girls continue to experience discriminatory justice systems that provide impunity for perpetrators, deny them protection, accountability and reparation leading to further violation of rights.  

The situation for Fijian women and girls in accessing formal justice systems has always been bleak, with alarming gender-based violence situation, despite a lot of structural changes in the formal justice systems, legislations and policies in Fiji. And it seems as though none of these interventions are able to cope with the experiences of women and girls in accessing justice. Quality access to formal justice systems is critical and lifesaving for the prevention and elimination of intimate partner violence for women and girls in Fiji.  

FWRM's work in improving women's access to justice is deeply rooted in the vision that all women are to be free from all forms of discrimination and violence. The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement is a multiethnic and multicultural non-governmental organisation focused on legislative reform to remove all forms of discrimination against women and promote women’s human rights and for more than 35 years, FWRM has raised awareness on barriers women face, including accessing justice.

In 1991, FWRM embarked on a campaign that spanned 12 years through 3 different governments to remove discriminating aspects of legislation and legal practices that hindered women’s access to justice. After years of campaigning that lasted through Fiji’s turbulent political landscape, FWRM achieved a milestone with the Family Law Bill becoming law in 2003. The Family Law Act marked ground breaking legislative reform in the Pacific, with attention to compliance with CEDAW.

FWRM produced an extensive account of the current legislation in the Family Law Bill, problems emanating from its interpretation and practice, a comparative look at the law and practice in other common law and Pacific island jurisdictions and sets out various options for reform. It also canvasses the policy, structural, financial, and resource implications of the proposed reforms and weighs these against the costs of not reforming the law.

Family Law Bill 2002 - FWRM Executive Summary

Family Law Act 2003


Balancing the Scales - Improving Fijian Women’s Access To Justice Research

In 2016, we began a substantial new partnership involve with the European Union and supported by UN Women Fiji Multi Country Office, under four different projects. ‘Balancing the Scales’, the FWRM-led access to justice project is a partnership with co-applicant femLINKpacific and subgrantees DIVA for Equality Fiji and Haus of Khamelon, which included an ambitious research project “Improving Fijian Women’s Access To Justice”. This ground breaking research was launched in 2018 in Suva. 

Twelve years after the commencement of the Family Law Court in 2005, FWRM carried outthe research to better understand existing barriers that prevent women from accessing the formal justice system. The research also looked at ways to improve the quality of services delivered to women when they interact with formal justice sector agencies for their family law matters and those cases involving violence against women and children. The research report is a significant achievement, building on FWRM’s legacy on Family Law and its work around women’s access to justice. The research allowed FWRM to engage with the formal justice sector and strengthen its relationship with the Family Court, as well as, various CSO partners that contributed. 

After the launch, a media campaign included a video and press releases and statements on the results of the research. FWRM also committed to the recommendation of publishing annual analysis of rape and sexual violence cases finalised in the high court.

 

Rape Case & Trends Analysis

                                                            

FWRM is the only organisation in Fiji (and perhaps the Pacific) putting together a trends analysis on the rape and sexual assault cases. For us, it is imperative to analyse trends so that we have up to date recommendations to provide to formal justice sector stakeholders. The analysis is also a recommendation that we have continued with from the Balancing the Scales project.  

 

 The 6-year trend analysis is utilised in the UN Women Access to Justice training module in the Western and Northern division in 2023, where it left an impactful impression on participants to make an asserted effort to do address the prevalence rate of sexual violence in Fiji. This data is annually shared publically through a press release and with all those who request for it.

 

Community Leaders' Workshops

Activities led by rural women in Fiji can be considered as social innovation, an opportunity to create social value. In addition to being an economic support for their families, generating development of local economies, the benefit that rural women in Fiji bring involves their communities for the resolution of problems present in them. In this sense, rural women deserve to be recognized as leaders and agents of change, and provisions need to be put in place that will unequivocally demonstrate governments and development agencies concern for and commitment to uplifting our women leaders to thrive personally and professionally. As such, the 3 day workshop for community women leaders from the 3 divisions held in Nadi informed and inspired comprehensive, rights-based approaches that recognize women’s rights as indivisible and interdependent by promoting women’s access to justice targeting family law and ending gender-based violence.

Recognizing the need to significantly enhance rural and remote women’s access to justice, FWRM’s Access to Justice – Know your Rights Community Leaders workshop took a multi-pronged approach with support from our women community leaders to address the hurdles facing gender sensitive justice.