Fiji

Fiji  is not ranked in the 2012 SIGI due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. However, the country note below sets out information and data relating to variables where this is available information.

Fiji was ranked 44th out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) for the country is 0.688, placing it 100th place (out of 187 countries). Fiji is not ranked under the 2011 Gender Inequality Index. Fiji's Global Gender Gap Index rating for 2011 is 0.6255, placing it 109th place (out of a total of 135 countries).

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.[1] 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 per cent of all Fijian girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.[2] 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.[3]

Polygamy and bigamy are illegal in Fiji as declared in the Crimes Decree of 2009.[4] 

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

[1] Marriage Act (Amendment) Decree, Decree No. 26 of 2009 in CEDAW (2010b) [2] UN (2004), p. 120. [3] CEDAW (2000), p. 61. [4] Crimes Decree 2009, Decree No. 44 of 2009. [5] CEDAW (2000), pp. 63-64; CEDAW (2010a), p.116. [6] CEDAW (2010a), p.114 [7] JICA (2009), p. 23; Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2008), p. 17.

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.[8] Spousal rape is a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence Decree.[9] 

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.[10]

Sexual harassment is a prohibited under the Human Rights Commission Act.[11] 

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.[12] Social and economic pressures, including substance abuse, contribute to the severity of the situation.[13] In addition, violence against women has increased during periods of political turmoil caused by the coups of 2000 and 2006.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] This policy aims to ensure that all reported cases receive due legal attention, by pursuing investigations even in cases where the woman drops charges.[18] 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.[19] Support services are provided by foreign-funded NGOs, including four women’s crisis centres.[20]

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 percent of suicides were related to domestic violence.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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 percent, 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.[25]

[8] Sections 207-209 of the Crimes Decree 2009. [9] US Department of State (2011) [10] US Department of State (2011); CEDAW (2010b), p.15 [11] US Department of State (2011) [12] CEDAW (2010a), pp.36-37; US Department of State (2011) [13] CEDAW (2000), p. 24. [14] United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2003), p. 225; US Department of State (2010), [15] CEDAW (2010a), p.50 [16] US Department of State (2011) [17] CEDAW (2010a), p.50 [18] CEDAW (2010a), p. 50; US Department of State (2011). [19] US Department of State (2011) [20] US Department of State (2011) [21] UNIFEM (n.d.) [22] Australian Government / AusAID (2005), p.2 [23] UN (2011) [24] US Department of State (2011) [25] CEDAW (2010), pp. 139-141.

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.[26]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.03.[27]

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

[26] UNICEF (n.d.) [27] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

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.[28] 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.[29]

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,[30] a situation hampered by the concentration of women in low-paying, less secure occupations.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33]

[28] CEDAW (2010a), p.100 [29] CEDAW (2000), p. 60; US Department of State (2010) [30] CEDAW (2000), p. 54. [31] CEDAW (2000), p. 10. [32] ADB (2008), p. 17. [33] CEDAW (2000), p. 21; JICA (2009), p. 27.

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.[34]  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).[35]

Freedom of speech, association, and assembly are all restricted in Fiji.[36] 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.[37] Women’s rights groups are active on issues such as reproductive health, providing human rights training, and supporting victims of gender-based violence.[38]

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.[39]

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.[40]

[34] US Department of State (2010) [35] US Department of State (2010) [36] Freedom House (2010) [37] CEDAW (2010a), p.7 [38] CEDAW (2010a), p.41, 90; US Department of State (2011) [39] US Department of State (2010) [40] International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009)

Background: 

Fiji was colonised by Britain in 1874, and became independent in 1970.[41] 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.[42] Sugar production and tourism are the country’s main industries.[43] The population is culturally diverse, comprising Fijians (57 percent), Indians (38 percent) and others (5 percent), with a similar religious make-up of Christians (65 percent), Hindus (28 percent), Muslims (6 percent) and others (1 percent).[44] Fiji is classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank.[45]

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.[46] 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.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49] However, they experienced a severe setback as a result of the attempted coup d’état in May 2000 and the ensuing political instability.[50] 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.[51]

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.[52] 

Fiji is ranked in 100th place in the 2011 Human Development Index (out of 187 countries), with a score of 0.688.[53] Fiji is not ranked under the 2011 Gender Inequality Index.[54] Fiji is ranked in 109th place in the Global Gender Gap Index, with a score of 0.6255.[55]

[41] Freedom House (2010) [42] BBC (n.d.) [43] BBC (n.d.) [44] CIA (2010) [45] World Bank (n.d.) [46] CEDAW (2010c) [47] CEDAW (2010c) [48] CEDAW (2010c) [49] 1997 Constitution of Fiji in Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)  (2010a), p.7. [50] Fiji Women’s Rights Movements (FWRM), Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) and Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA) (2002), pp. 4, 10. [51] BBC News (2009); E. Baselala (2009) [52] UNTC (2011) [53] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.128 [54] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.142 55] World Economic Forum (2011) p.11

Sources: 

Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2008), Gender Profiles of Asian Development Bank’s Developing Member Countries, ADB.

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

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=124623 (accessed 6 April 2010)

BBC (n.d.) ‘Fiji profile’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1300477.stm (accessed 16 November 2011)

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).

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html (accessed 29 February 2012)

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.

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.

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

CEDAW (2010c) Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Fiji, CEDAW/C/FJI/CO/4, CEDAW, New York

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2010), The World Factbook: Fiji, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, available from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ (accessed 6 April 2010)

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.

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)

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 6 April 2010)

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, IPU: Geneva, http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm.

Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2009), Fiji: Country Gender Profile, JICA.

United Nations (UN) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY.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

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (n.d.) ‘Fiji – statistics’, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/fiji_statistics.html (accessed 16 November 2011)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2011) Human Development Report 2011, http://hdr.undp.org/en/data/profiles/ (accessed 15 November 2011)

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)

United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (n.d.), Gender Profile of the Conflict in Fiji, Women War Peace Portal, www.womenwarpeace.org.

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.

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)

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.

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)

World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Fiji’, http://data.worldbank.org/country/fiji (accessed 16 November 2011)

World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Index 2010 rankings’, http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/rankings2010.pdf

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)

 

Data
Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
28
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
0.1834
Legal Age of Marriage: 
0
Early Marriage: 
0.1
Parental Authority: 
0
Inheritance: 
0.5
Data
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
1
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
73
Violence Against Women (laws): 
0.166667
Female Genital Mutilation: 
0
Data
Missing Women: 
0
Data
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
56
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
0.3473
Access To Land: 
0.5
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
0
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
0.5
Data
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
64
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
0.5254
Access To Public Space: 
0
Political Participation: 
0.0909
Political Quotas: 
1