Editorial comment – Fighting domestic violence

Australia’s new Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne with Fiji's women MPs. Picture: SUPPLIED

It is good to know that the fight against domestic violence in the country has received a major boost from the Australian government.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne confirmed that Australia had committed to assisting Fiji in combating the culture of violence against women and children through the Australian Defence Force and their Sports Diplomacy Program.

The programs, she said, were discussed with Minister for Foreign Affairs Inia Seruiratu and Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa last Friday.

She said they spoke about the work that Australia had done in its national action plan and confirmed they would be sharing information.

“We know the effect that it has on women and children,” she said.

She pointed out it left a dulling effect on families, on women’s efforts to engage and their pursuit for economic security and leadership and to protect themselves.

The Sports Diplomacy Program, she said, was carried out through members of the ADF and NRL through school visits in Nadi, Sigatoka and Suva.

The Sports Diplomacy Program and the Pacific Aus Sports package, she said, focused on rugby league, rugby union, soccer and netball.

“All are very powerful tools to engage particularly with young people in the Pacific on key messages around the way their lives are shaped, around education, around health, around nutrition and the anti-violence message,” she said.

She said Fijian advocates would also be empowered with more funding from the Australian government. Ms Payne accompanied Australian PM Scott Morrison on a 24-hour visit to Fiji at the weekend.

The UN Women estimates that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives.

However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and acquiring HIV, compared with women who have not.

Any effort or campaign to address domestic violence in Fiji is welcomed.

It is an opportunity for us to talk about an issue that touches sensitive spots in some families around the country.

It is a reality that must be talked about and addressed obviously, and does hold a place in issues that need to be discussed at the community and national levels.

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