There should be some legal protection to criminalize any abuse that happens during disasters in Fiji, says Minister for Women and Social Welfare Dr Jiko Luveni.
Dr Luveni made the comment while opening a week long workshop on Gender and Gender Based Violence in Humanitarian settings at the Tanoa Plaza hotel in Suva today.
The issue arose after it was discovered that the severity and incidence of sexual violence and domestic violence often increased in the aftermath of natural disaster as a public health and human rights problem in Fiji.
Dr Luveni said the common gender-based violence reported accruing in acute emergencies are sexual violence and it commonly involves female as victims and male perpetrators.
She revealed that other forms of gender based violence occurring during rehabilitation and recovery period in Fiji are domestic violence including withholding of social benefits and commercial sexual exploitation.
“We must work together to provide assistance to survivors and victims of natural disaster especially in the event of floods and cyclones,” said Dr Luveni.
She said the existing disaster management operations are not sensitive to the special gender needs our women, men, girls, boys, people with disabilities and the elderly.
“This requires immediate intervention from humanitarian actors such as us.”
The UN Women organised this workshop believing that working with the Government will eradicate this issue.
The participants of the workshop come from Fiji and are those that have identified through their various departments and organizations as having the responsibility to respond in emergency setting.
UN Women regional programme director Elzira Sagynbaeva on her letter to Dr Luveni said given that Fiji is consistently confronted with natural disaster, the overall approach to addressing the issue cannot be easily treated as either development issue or humanitarian issue.
“Fiji due to the rapid onset of natural disasters can result in widespread sexual violence and exploitation that are exacerbated by chronic poverty, pre-existing gender inequalities and harmful traditional custom and practices.”
Sagynbaeva said increase in substance abuse is correlated with the increase of domestic violence.
She said the workshop will provide field practitioners with the knowledge and tools to better address the different needs of women, men, boys and girls for gender based violence and response in humanitarian settings.
The workshop will end on Friday August 11, 2012.
By Ropate Valemei