The Deputy Police Commissioner, Isikeli Ligairi opened a workshop in Labasa today for senior officers based in the Northern Division on gender, violence against women, human rights and related laws.
Facilitated by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre with UNDP funding, this is the third in a series of four workshops for officers who are part of the Fiji Police Force’s command groups in all divisions. It is aimed at helping the officers understand how to appropriately and sensitively respond to female victims reporting gender-based violence.
Speaking on behalf of Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho, DPC Ligairi reiterated the force’s approach to dealing with gender-based violence: to enforce the laws that are already in place without allowing personal beliefs on what causes violence against women to cloud their decision-making.
“Let me be clear that I will not tolerate any of my officers trying to bend the rules because of their personal beliefs on the subject,” DPC Ligairi said, relaying the Police Commissioner’s message.
“All of us have been given the responsibility to enforce Fiji’s laws which are clearly defined so there’s no other way around that in as far as our role as law enforcers is concerned.
“If a woman can’t turn to us for help when she has become a victim, then who else can she turn to? Sometimes our work does become monotonous and we become complacent. However, complacency has no place in the enforcement of laws about gender-based violence.”
DPC Ligairi called on officers to develop a “sense of compassion and urgency” when dealing with gender-based offences. This will help improve public confidence in the police force and show that it is serious about addressing crimes against women and children.
The Deputy Commissioner said the days of responding with an excuse about there being no vehicle to attend to reports of violence were over. “There are better ways to respond during these situations and our immediate focus should be on assuring and comforting the victim that help will be on its way.
“This is an area that needs to be looked into and hopefully through this training you will be able to effectively address this issue.”
In her opening comments, FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali expressed her gratitude to the Fiji Police Force for being open to the training of all senior officers and to the UNDP for funding the initiative.
She said the partnerships being built were important in eliminating violence against women and children.
The Divisional Police Commander North, SSP Shiri Bhawan Singh, is attending the week-long training along with 20 other station officers and heads of units and formations from districts in Vanua Levu, including from Taveuni and Rabi.
The workshops are aimed at helping the Fiji Police Force’s hierarchy understand gender and the dynamics of violence against women so they are able to give appropriate and sensitive instructions to the officers under their command when dealing with violence against women.
Shamima Ali is the lead facilitator during the week, which will include sessions on gender, human rights, religious excuses for perpetuating violence against women, and the relevant laws that are in place to deal with perpetrators.
Other facilitators will include the Executive Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj and lawyer and male advocate for women’s human rights Tevita Seruilumi.