By Anish Chand
Fiji will report an increase in the granting of domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) through Fijian courts when it is examined by the Committee on the Elimination of Discimination Against Women in Geneva tomorrow.
Fiji's Minister for Women Mereseani Vuniwaqa and Fiji's Permannent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem will represent Fiji at the examination.
CEDAW, in a written list of questions has requested Fiji to provide statistics on DVRO's issued in Fiji.
"Please provide information on any measures taken to combat gender bias in the judiciary, and indicate whether any training sessions are provided to the judiciary on the gravity of gender-based violence against women and whether any legal amendments are envisaged to establish a minimum sentence that is commensurate with the gravity of that crime and to increase the issuance of domestic violence-related restraining orders." CEDAW asks.
In reply Fiji has provided statistics on DVRO's to CEDAW from 2011 to 2017.
In Fijian Magistrates Courts, 5623 domestic violence restraining orders were granted from 2011 to 2017.
In 2011 it was 410, in 2012, 875 DVRO's were granted, in 2013, 787 were given out, in 2014, 712, in 2015, 754 orders were issued, in 2016, 913 applications were approved and in 2017, 1172 orders were granted.
In the 2012 to 2017, the Fijian Family Courts granted 1710 domestic violence restraining orders, with females applying for more DVRO's when compared to men.
The Fijian Legal Aid Commission statistics from 2015 to 2017 reveal they handled 1614 applications, out of which 964 were female applicants and 650 were male applicants.
Fiji has provided statistics on the domestic violence telephone helpline which was launched on 8th March, 2017 and is funded by the Fijian Government and Operated by Fiji Women's Crisis Centre.
An equal number of Indo-Fijian and Indigenous Fijian women have called this helpline between March-September 2017 to seek advice and assistance.
470 Indo-Fijian and Indigenous womnen made calls to the helpline with mojority of the calls related (385) related to domestic violence.
Based on the calls coming to the helpline, 219 cases were referred to the Fiji Womens Crisis Centre while 141 cases were referred to the Fiji Police Force.
30 cases went to Legal Aid Commission while 23 cases were sent to the Social Welfare Department.
65 men also called the domestic violence helpline for assistance between March-September 2017, out of which 36 cases wee reported to the Fiji Police Force and 11 to Legal Aid and another 11 to Social Welfare.
CEDAW had requested these statistics after receiving reports that domestic violence-related restraining orders are very rarely issued to protect women victims of gender-based violence and where men have, in several cases, used the gender-neutral Domestic Violence Decree to obtain residential domestic violence-related restraining orders against their female partners.
"This led to the removal of the women from the matrimonial home," CEDAW notes.
Fiji will be asked to indicate whether it is taking any measures to ensure that the Domestic Violence Act is not misused for such purposes.