Sharing strategies to eliminate violence against women and girls (VAWG) was a priority, as a CPA UK delegation participated in a programme of diplomatic engagement in Fiji and New Zealand in June 2023.
In Fiji, the delegation heard from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) about how they are addressing VAWG in their country and the wider Pacific region. According to UN Women, VAWG impacts two out of every three women in the Pacific region. Fiji has adopted a service delivery protocol governing how courts, police and other public institutions respond to VAWG cases. The protocol has raised awareness of VAWG in the population by ensuring public services consider VAWG in their day-to-day activities.
At the international level, NGOs from Pacific Island states have partnered to campaign for the adoption of a ‘Family Protection Act’ in their respective jurisdictions. This proposed legislation is adapted to fit different local contexts, with the shared goal of eliminating the scourge of VAWG across the region.
In New Zealand, the Government has appointed a Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence to focus on government policy in this sphere. At the same time, civil society groups are pioneering new approaches to VAWG cases, including piloting schemes where perpetrators are moved to alternative accommodation, enabling victims to continue to reside in their homes rather than moving to a refuge.
New Zealand has notably low conviction rates in VAWG-related cases. 44% of those charged with sexual offences are convicted, compared with 71% for other charges. One proposed solution is to exempt VAWG cases from jury trial, with these cases being heard by judges only. Providing adequate training to members of juries around VAWG and possible biases can be a challenge.
The delegation visit marked CPA UK’s first programme in the Pacific region since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The connections and knowledge developed through this programme will shape CPA UK’s ongoing work addressing VAWG and engagement in the Pacific.
The Rt. Hon Dame Maria Miller MP, Delegation Leader and Chair of CPA UK, shared:
“I wish to thank the parliaments of Fiji and New Zealand for the warm welcome afforded to our delegation throughout this programme. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss the common challenges facing our parliaments and societies, including the need to eliminate violence against women and girls. It is always valuable to learn from our partners throughout the Commonwealth. CPA UK looks forward to using this visit as a platform for further collaboration with the Pacific region.”
A full report on the visit to Fiji and New Zealand is available here.