As the annual 16 Days of Activism against violence against women and girls (VAWG) begins, a New Zealand Parliamentarians group call for greater efforts to combat violence against women and girls in our region, which must be led by our Pacific partners.
There are strong links between VAWG and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women who have been physically or sexually abused are one and half times more likely to have a sexually transmissible infection (in some regions HIV), and two times more likely to have an abortion (2013 figures). Intimate partner violence in pregnancy also increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies.
The numbers of women impacted are significant. A 2016 study by The Fiji Women's Rights Movement revealed that out of one thousand women surveyed, one in five had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. In Tonga, 8% of women experienced physical violence during pregnancy.
Our region continues to have one of the world's highest rates of domestic and sexual violence with an average across the countries of two in every three women in Pacific Island countries experiencing intimate partner violence across their lifetimes.
While there have been exciting developments across the Pacific, such as the successful establishment of The Sexual Harassment Policy for the Tonga Public Service in March this year, much more work remains to be done to ensure every woman and girl living in the Pacific is free from violence.
Angie Warren-Clark MP, Chair of the New Zealand Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development (NZPPD), said:
Prioritising sexual and reproductive health and rights for all is one of the key pieces in the puzzle to improving the lives of women and girls, and reducing the violence against them. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are vital for a person’s overall health and wellbeing and promote equitable access to education and economic opportunities. We must engage all genders in these important conversations to improve the lives of women and girls.
Hon Louise Upston MP, NZPPD Vice-Chair, added:
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges facing women especially across the Pacific, disrupting access to sexual and reproductive health services including maternal health care. We need to ensure that our responses to COVID-19 are gender sensitive and address the ongoing violence women and girls face in their communities across the Pacific.
- 16 Days of Activism against violence against women and girls is an international campaign that takes place each year. It commences on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until 10 December, Human Rights Day. This year marks its 30th anniversary.
- NZPPD is a cross-party parliamentary group which focus on population and development issues in the Pacific including sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s empowerment.