Report – Special correspondent in Suva
A Fiji women’s advocacy group has launched a campaign calling for Minister for Women Dr Jiko Luveni’s resignation over her reported comments in a daily newspaper apparently blaming rape victims.
The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) issued a statement today urging protests to be sent to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama seeking her resignation.
Executive director Virisila Buadromo said in the statement Dr Luveni’s comments “shamed” and “further violated” victimised women rather than denouncing rapists.
Dr Luveni was quoted in today’s Fiji Sun as saying: “If a girl is going out to drink with guys in an isolated area wearing shorts or clothes showing off her body, she is inviting trouble.”
The FWRM statement said Dr Luveni’s comments had moved the focus of rape away from the rapist and aimed it directly at the victim. It said:
Luveni’s comments insinuate that rape victims are to blame for the violent crime because they were not dressed modestly.
Why should Luveni’s comment make us all angry?
Firstly, it shames and further violates against the already victimised individuals rather than denouncing the aggressive actions of rape and the rapists.
Insult to men
Secondly, it is an insult to men because it assumes that ALL men are rapists because they cannot control their sexual urges and will rape women if they are not dressed modestly.
Comments such as these from nationally prominent figures need to be based on credible evidence and not on wild accusations without hard data to back them up.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the global lifetime prevalence of non-partner sexual violence is 7.2 percent. What is also really revealing is the hard data from countries in which women dress very conservatively – the sexual assault data still shows comparable rates of sexual assault. For example WHO data records Bangladesh at 49 percent in the provinces for rape/sexual assault, 37 percent in the cities and 18 percent nationally, Tajikistan at 42 pecent, and Turkey at 15 percent.
In these regions women are strongly encouraged to dress and behave conservatively. For example, they are encouraged to wear loose fitting clothing that covers themselves from head to toe and many are discouraged from going out in public without a male relative.
This data illustrates that asking women and girls to change their behavior and dress is not going to protect them fromsexual violence. Tragically it is comments such as what was printed in today’s Fiji Sun that lead to the entrenchment of mainstream thinking that women are at fault for being raped rather than on the real criminals, men who rape women.
What can we do to show our outrage? Write letters to Frank Bainimarama asking for Jiko Luveni’s resignation as Minister of Women and the president of his proposed “Fiji First Party”.
The minister’s office later issued a statement claiming that her comments had been “distorted” in media reports.
“I have never, nor has the Bainimarama government ever said that victims of rape are to be blamed,” Dr Luveni said. “Rape is a despicable act and we must all condemn it.”