Gender Equality in Fiji

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Fiji
flag_Fiji.png
Flag of Fiji
Population (in Mil.) 0.87
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 4.04
Sex Ratio (m/f) 1.03
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.089552239
Fertility Rate 2.61
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.38
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 16.1
Women in Parliament (in %)
INDICES
Human Development Index 96/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 96/186
Gender Equity Index /168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 81/128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

Fiji was colonised by Britain in 1874, and became independent in 1970.[1] Since 1987, the country has been beset by ongoing political instability and tensions between Fijians and Indo-Fijians, the two main ethnic groups, resulting in a series of coups in 1987, 2000, 2006, and 2009.[2] Sugar production and tourism are the country’s main industries.[3] The population is culturally diverse, comprising Fijians (57%), Indians (38%) and others (5%), with a similar religious make-up of Christians (65%), Hindus (28%), Muslims (6%) and others (1%).[4] Fiji is classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank.[5] Key areas of concern for women’s rights in Fiji include violence and harassment stemming from the political instability, poverty, discrimination in the labour market, gender-based violence and the low representation of women in public life.[6] Despite achieving gender parity in education, the costs of schooling and lack of transportation continue to pose obstacles for girls completing their education, particularly in rural areas and the outer islands.[7] To address these issues, Fiji has introduced a number of significant reforms to improve women’s status including a Women’s Plan of Action which identifies five priority areas for the promotion of women’s rights: formal sector employment and livelihood, equal participation in decision-making, the elimination of violence against women and children, access to basic services, and women and the law.[8] According to a report by Fiji Women’s Rights Movements (FWRM), women gained more rights with the introduction of the 1997 Constitution, which at clause 38(2) outlaws discrimination on the grounds of gender, disability, and sexual orientation.[9] However, they experienced a severe setback as a result of the attempted coup d’état in May 2000 and the ensuing political instability.[10] In 2009, following a judicial ruling that the military government then in power violated the Constitution, the Prime Minister assumed all powers and abrogated the 1997 Constitution, calling for a new one to be written in 2012.[11] Fiji ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.[12] Fiji is ranked in 100th place in the 2011 Human Development Index (out of 187 countries), with a score of 0.688.[13] Fiji is not ranked under the 2011 Gender Inequality Index.[14] Fiji is ranked in 109th place in the Global Gender Gap Index, with a score of 0.6255.[15]

Discriminatory Family Code

In 2009 the Marriage Act was amended by decree, raising the age of consent to 18 and removing the ability of minors under this age to marry with parental consent.[16] The effect on early marriage rates is unknown at this point, since the most recent data is from 1996. Drawing on this data, the United Nations’ World Fertility Report estimated that 10% of all Fijian girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.[17] According to the Marriage Act, both men and women are free to independently choose their spouses. Although arranged marriages occur in some Indian communities, a study by the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reports that both parties must consent to the proposed union.[18] Polygamy and bigamy are illegal in Fiji as declared in the Crimes Decree of 2009.[19] Legislation grants parental authority to both parents with regards to the upbringing of their children. In the event of divorce, both parents have equal right to custody, and the court will make a final decision in the best interests of the child, in regard to child custody.[20] Information was not available as to whether in practice, courts favour mothers or fathers in custody cases. Men and women have the same rights to file for divorce, provided it is established that the relationship has irrevocably broken down.[21] Legally, men and women have equal rights to inheritance. However, women have no inheritance rights to customary land and tradition favours male heirs over their female counterparts when it comes to inheritance.[22]

Restricted Physical Integrity

The Crimes Decree of 2009 has defined and criminalized rape in Fiji, recommending as punishment imprisonment of 10 years for attempted rape and life for rape.[23] Spousal rape is a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence Decree.[24] The Domestic Violence Decree of 2009 created a specific offence of domestic violence, as well as removing previous requirements that a couple attempt reconciliation before a case could be brought.[25] Sexual harassment is a prohibited under the Human Rights Commission Act.[26] According to the 2010 CEDAW report, as well as the US Department of State human rights report, there are high prevalence rates of gender-based violence against women in Fiji, and includes domestic violence, rape, incest, and indecent assault.[27] Social and economic pressures, including substance abuse, contribute to the severity of the situation.[28] In addition, violence against women has increased during periods of political turmoil caused by the coups of 2000 and 2006.[29] Four Sexual Offences Units were established in 1995, to enable a more effective and sensitive response in cases of sexual violence, but the 2010 CEDAW report notes that these units are under-resourced, under-staffed, and that employees working there are sometimes insensitve and hostile towards service users.[30] In addition, women’s rights organisations have noted that judges are inconsistent in regard to sentencing in rape cases, with sentences usually ranging from 1 – 6 years.[31] Information is not available regarding the number of rape cases reported to the police and the number of cases that resulted in a conviction. Many women still feel restricted by cultural and social pressures that make it difficult to report gender-based violence. Noting that a high number of complaints were subsequently withdrawn by the victims, a “no-drop” policy became standard in 2008.[32] This policy aims to ensure that all reported cases receive due legal attention, by pursuing investigations even in cases where the woman drops charges.[33] However, according to the US Department of State, women’s rights organisations maintained that this policy is not enforced consistently, and that cases reaching court are often dismissed, or the perpetrator let off with no punishment, if he promised good behaviour.[34] Support services are provided by foreign-funded NGOs, including four women’s crisis centres.[35]

A gender-profiling study available on the UNIFEM Women War Peace Portal reports statistics that reflect the situation of women in Fiji. Along with their Samoan neighbours, Fijian women have the highest suicide rate in the world. In 1992, an estimated 41% of suicides were related to domestic violence.[36] According to a 2005 Australian government report, there is evidence to suggest that sexual violence has been used as a weapon during flare-ups of armed and ethnic conflict in the country.[37] There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practised in the country. Abortion is legal in cases of rape and incest, foetal impairment, or when the woman’s mental or physical health is in danger.[38] According to the US Department of State, there are no legal restrictions on women’s right to access contraception and information about reproductive health and family planning.[39] Data on contraceptive use and prevalence in Fiji is scarce. According to Fiji’s 2010 CEDAW report, the overall prevalence rate as of 2005 was 42%, although it is unclear to what this number refers. The report states that there is a nationwide family planning program that offers access to contraception free of charge. They report anecdotally that some women cannot use contraceptives because of the opposition of their spouse.[40]

Son Bias

Gender-disaggregated data for childhood vaccination rates, malnutrition, and under-five mortality are unavailable for Fiji. Gender-disaggregated data is also unavailable regarding child labour. Net enrolment rates are higher for girls than for boys at both primary and secondary level in Fiji, indicating no bias towards sons in regard to access to education.[41] The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.03.[42]

There is no evidence to suggest that Fiji is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

Women in Fiji have full ownership rights, including the same legal rights as men in access to land and access to property other than land.[43] However, a CEDAW report reports that women have relatively limited knowledge of these rights and frequently accept not being recorded as co-owners in documents concerning titles or other transactions of family assets. Fijian women also tend to be excluded from the decision-making process on disposition of communal land.[44] Fijian law provides men and women with the same access to bank loans and credit. In reality, access is biased towards men as they are better positioned to provide collateral and/or an initial deposit,[45] a situation hampered by the concentration of women in low-paying, less secure occupations.[46] Women in particular have been hit hard by declines in the sectors where they comprise a majority of workers, such as tourism and the garment industry.[47] In response, the Fiji Development Bank and the Ministry of Women are taking steps to improve the situation by creating special credit schemes for women.[48]

Restricted Civil Liberties

Under normal circumstances, women in Fiji have unlimited freedom of movement as guaranteed by the abrogated Constitution. During the current political crisis initiated by the military’s governmental takeover in April 2009, the government is free to restrict the movement of all Fijians for political reasons.[49] Women do not need the consent of a male family member to apply for and hold a passport, although they may be restricted from employment in traditionally male-dominated occupations (such as mining).[50] Freedom of speech, association, and assembly are all restricted in Fiji.[51] According to the 2010 CEDAW report, there are no restrictions on women joining civil society organisations (CSOs), and some of the most active CSOs in Fiji are run by women.[52] Women’s rights groups are active on issues such as reproductive health, providing human rights training, and supporting victims of gender-based violence.[53] Due to the continuation of military rule in Fiji, there are no national bodies of legislature to which women can be elected. One woman serves in the eleven-member Cabinet, which is appointed. There are a few women chiefs within the traditional system of chiefs that govern parts of Fiji, but the Great Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga) has also been disbanded, and one high ranking female chief was detained in 2009.[54] Fiji allows women employed in “enterprise undertakings” twelve weeks of paid maternity benefits at a flat rate of 1.50 Fiji dollars, paid for by her employer. However it offers weak protections against unlawful termination. In addition, the clear majority of women who work in the informal sector or who are not paid wages do not qualify.[55]

References

  1. Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World Country reports: Fiji’, http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2010&country=7822 (accessed 16 November 2011)
  2. BBC (n.d.) ‘Fiji profile’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1300477.stm (accessed 16 November 2011)
  3. Reference 2
  4. CIA (2010) The World Factbook: Thailand, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fj.html
  5. World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Fiji’, http://data.worldbank.org/country/fiji (accessed 16 November 2011)
  6. CEDAW (2010c) Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Fiji, CEDAW/C/FJI/CO/4, CEDAW, New York
  7. Reference 6
  8. Reference 6
  9. 1997 Constitution of Fiji in CEDAW (2010a), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Fiji Islands, Combined Second, Third, and Fourth Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/FJI/2-4, CEDAW, New York, NY, p.7.
  10. Fiji Women’s Rights Movements (FWRM), FWCC (Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre) and Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA) (2002), NGO Report on the Status of Women in the Republic of the Fiji Islands, pp. 4, 10.
  11. BBC News (10 April 2009), “Fiji’s President Takes Over Power,” BBC, available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7993295.stm (accessed 6 April 2010); Baselala, E. (2009), “Work on Fiji’s Constitution to Start in 3 Years,” Fiji Times, 1 July 2009, available from http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id
  12. United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2011): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. - CEDAW: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 15 November 2011) - Optional Protocol: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8-b&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 15 November 2011)
  13. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012 p.128
  14. Reference 13 p.142
  15. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf, accessed 2 March 2012. p.11
  16. Marriage Act (Amendment) Decree, Decree No. 26 of 2009 in CEDAW (2010b) ‘Responses to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the combined second, third and fourth periodic reports Fiji’, CEDAW/C/FJI/Q/2-4/Add.1, CEDAW, New York
  17. United Nations (UN) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY, p. 120.
  18. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2000), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Fiji Islands, Initial Report of States Parties, CEDAW/C/FJI/1, CEDAW, New York, NY, p. 61.
  19. Crimes Decree 2009, Decree No. 44 of 2009
  20. Reference 18, pp. 63-64; Reference 9, p.116
  21. Reference 9, p.114
  22. Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2009), Fiji: Country Gender Profile, JICA, p. 23; Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2008), Gender Profiles of Asian Development Bank’s Developing Member Countries, ADB, p. 17.
  23. Sections 207-209 of the Crimes Decree 2009.
  24. US Department of State (2011), 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Fiji, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eap/154384.htm (accessed 16 November 2011)
  25. Reference 24; Reference 16, p.15
  26. Reference 24
  27. Reference 9, pp.36-37; Reference 24
  28. Reference 18, p. 24.
  29. United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1: New York, NY., p. 225; US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Fiji, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.
  30. Reference 9, p.50
  31. Reference 24
  32. Reference 9, p.50
  33. Reference 9, p. 50; Reference 24.
  34. Reference 24
  35. Reference 24
  36. United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (n.d.), Gender Profile of the Conflict in Fiji, Women War Peace Portal, www.womenwarpeace.org.
  37. Australian Government / AusAID (2005) ‘Australian aid: Eliminating violence against women’, Canberra, ACT: Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), http://www.ausaid.gov.au/publications/pdf/women.pdf, p.2
  38. UN (2011) ‘World Abortion Policies 2011’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2011abortion/2011wallchart.pdf
  39. Reference 24
  40. CEDAW (2010a), pp. 139-141.
  41. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (n.d.) ‘Fiji – statistics’, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/fiji_statistics.html (accessed 16 November 2011)
  42. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012.
  43. CEDAW (2010a), P.100
  44. Reference 18, P. 60; US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Fiji, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC
  45. Reference 18, p. 54.
  46. Reference 18, p. 10.
  47. Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2008), Gender Profiles of Asian Development Bank’s Developing Member Countries, ADB, p. 17.
  48. Reference 18, p. 21; Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2009), Fiji: Country Gender Profile, JICA, p. 27.
  49. US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Fiji, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.
  50. Reference 49
  51. Reference 1
  52. Reference 9, p.7
  53. Reference 9, p.41, 90; Reference 24
  54. Reference 49
  55. International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland, accessed 6 April 2010


The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women?  

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court.Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Fiji, please visit the Women, Business and the Law Fijipage.

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