FIJI – The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has warned of a spike in domestic violence during the enforced Covid-19 lockdown and curfew in the country.
The centre said it received more than 400 calls over 17 consecutive days in April.
Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali is concerned at the increase of gender-based violence across Fiji and said huge challenges lay ahead if domestic violence is not addressed now.
“There definitely is an increase in the violence experienced by women. Where there was already violence, the perpetrators were already there, and the women suffered. The violence is now intensifying because a lot of these perpetrators are in the home now.”
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre said 64 per cent of women in Fiji, who had been in an intimate relationship, had experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners.
The government’s statistics show that 61 per cent were physically attacked while 34 per cent were sexually abused.
Just over one third of the calls received by the centre last month were related to domestic violence while other complaints were on rape, attempted rape and child abuse, Ali said.
There were also reports of men being abused.
The centre was working with all stakeholders including the government and police to tackle these issues.
This week, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa, said she was also concerned at the continued rise in domestic violence.
She said the state’s National Domestic Violence Helpline received 87 calls in February, 187 in March and over 500 in April.
“Sixty-six percent of the callers were women and 44 per cent were men. While 54 per cent were domestic violence-related and 30 per cent related to Covid-19,” Vuniwaqa said.
The ministry had set up working groups to analyse the impact of the virus on families and the upsurge of violence.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre said eight women were killed in domestic violence-related cases last year.
The Coalition for Human Rights in Fiji said police intervention was vital in situations where victims were forced to remain in the home due to the nationwide curfew.
Coalition chair Nalini Singh said freedom of movement was restricted and she urged police to ensure help was available for victims of domestic violence.
“Women are more vulnerable when they are locked in with perpetrators of violence and the same with children. But more and more women are reaching out for help.”