Legal professionals need gender sensitivity training: FWRM

February 3, 2024 4:35 pm

[File Photo]

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement continues to find shocking discriminatory practices against female survivors of rape within the formal criminal justice system.

As part of FWRM’s ongoing research and advocacy work on strengthening Fijian Women’s Access to Justice, rape cases decided in the Fijian High Courts have been analyzed from 2016 to date.

FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh says in the 2023 analysis they continue to find that discriminatory practices are still being perpetuated by legal practitioners.

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“In the 2023 analysis of the cases we find that there are still some discriminatory practices in terms of inappropriate questions being directed towards rape victims. It is still being perpetuated by legal practitioners, especially members of the private bar and government-appointed defense lawyers.”

Singh stresses that section 206 (1) of the Crimes Act 2009 of Fiji states that “the submission without physical resistance by a person to an act of another person shall not alone constitute consent.

FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh

She adds that despite this established law and jurisprudence, lawyers continue to ask victims questions which add no value to their work other than to demean and belittle victims of rape.

“We see private lawyers are just further victimizing rape victims in Court. Some examples of questions posed to victims are…“why didn’t you run or why didn’t you scream for help? How long were you raped for? Why didn’t you report the rape earlier? All these types of questions do nothing but demean and belittle victims.”

Singh says the FWRM demands urgent gender sensitivity training for all lawyers in Fiji.

She stresses guidelines for anyone who comes into contact with victims of rape must be developed by the legal fraternity, in consultation with feminist NGOs like the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and FWRM, to gender sensitize lawyers by breaking down concepts of gender equality, power imbalance, and the rule of law.