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By Ashwini Prabha Wansolwara Online (USP)

SUVA, Fiji Islands (Wansolwara Online/Pasifik Nius)---An upsurge in family disputes, domestic violence, poverty and suicides in Fiji has been linked to last year's political upheaval, says a new report.

The survey, for which 400 women were interviewed Fiji wide, was commissioned by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Center to investigate the impact of the upheaval on the lives of women.

The report was released today.

It shows immense family suffering due to widespread job loses, loss of income and deteriorating family relationships, with women bearing the brunt of the pressure.

This has culminated in the highest ever suicide rate recorded among women in the 12 months after the coup on May 19 last year, claims the FWCC. The center did not provide any figures.

Fiji Women Crisis Center coordinator Shamima Ali said the report confirms that verbal and physical abuse of women have been on the increase since the attempted coup.

Women were particularly hard hit by the decline in the tourism and garment industries, with massive lay offs.

"Out of the 40 women we surveyed who were employed by the tourism industry, 38 had experienced either job losses, pay cuts or reduced working hours," said Ali.

Earlier, a survey by the center of the country's major "red light" areas showed that some women who had lost their jobs had turned to prostitution.

The report shows a huge increase in the proportion of households falling in the lower income bracket. The proportion of households that had a weekly income of under $50 increased from 11 percent to 29 percent after the coup. This, says Ali, resulted in domestic arguments over financial matters.

The report says that a "severe deterioration " in police services had made women reluctant to report domestic violence.

Entire families in Muaniweni and Dreketi were badly traumatized by groups of ethnic Fijian youth who set upon them at the height of last year's crisis.

"Our counselors made trips into these areas soon after the coup to assess the needs of the women and children and to document some of the attacks and human rights violations that were occurring," said Ali.

Ali hopes the report will bring the attention of the new government to suffering women.

The release of the report coincides with the Women's Human Rights Hearing at the World Conference on Racism in Durban today.

Title -- 3382 POLITICS: Fiji coup crisis linked to family rows, suicides Date -- 31 August 2001 Byline -- Ashwini Prabha Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wansolwara Online, 31/8/1 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 1, 2001 The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)--Women were hit hardest in the aftermath of last year's Fiji coup, a just-released report alleges.

The report by the Fiji Women's Crisis Center says women were the most vulnerable in the economic downturn following last year's political mayhem.

And it alleges that some women from Fiji's ethnic Indian community were raped by indigenous Fijian men.

The report was released as Fiji voted in a weeklong general election to return the country to democratic government after the coup last year, during which indigenous Fijian rebel gunmen took the government led by Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, hostage. The insurrection sparked violence and forced the government's removal.

The vote ending today has been free of major incident, with counting due to start on Monday.

The Fiji Women's Crisis Center is a mainly overseas-funded NGO operating in Suva and other centers. Its main funder is the Australian government agency AusAID.

On the economic effects of the coup crisis on women, its report said: "Many employers who reduced their staff laid off female workers first. This was because women's earnings were not seen to be as essential to the household as the men's earnings.

"Tourism was badly affected. Thirty-eight of the 40 women who were directly employed by the industry experienced either job losses, pay cuts or reduced hours."

On sexual attacks, the center’s report said that in the areas it visited, there were several cases of rapes. It said: "The women who were raped also had to deal with the after-effects of the attack. There is still a tremendous social stigma attached to women who have been raped.

"There was a great deal of tension and strain in family relations because of the sexual attacks. Many women did not report the attacks because they did not want their families, especially their husbands, to know that it had happened.

"Threats of raping wives or daughters were also used to force men into cooperating with demands for cash, food, vehicles, livestock, etc."

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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