Tuesday, 26 March 2013, 11:11 am Press Release: Fiji Women’s Forum
March 26, 2013
FWF disappointed with State constitution process
The Fiji Women’s Forum (FWF) notes the announcement by the State that there will be no Constituent Assembly (CA) – a critical component in the constitution-making process. The CA is intended to allow open debate on constitutional content.
On Thursday March 21, 2013, along with this decision, the State also released their draft constitution; and gave the public nine working days within which they can submit comments on the State draft. It is unclear how submissions will be incorporated, given the very short time-frame.
The FWF had nominated 13 women leaders to be part of the CA. The FWF had also worked with women from all the divisions in Fiji to make submissions to the Constitution Commission, particularly in relation to women’s human rights and women’s political participation.
Much of this was reflected in the 2012 People’s Draft Constitution, but is missing from the State draft.
“Supporting the submission process took a lot of time, effort and resources; and while the Fiji Women’s Forum had concerns regarding the legitimacy of the overall process, it still mobilised women to take part because women’s participation is essential to human rights centred development, and to full and effective democratization,”said Fiji Women’s Forum spokesperson Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.
“The invisibility of women in the State draft is in direct contravention to CEDAW* which Fiji ratified in 1995. Since last year the Fiji Women’s Forum has been mobilising women from around the country to take part in the democratisation process and as a result of this, over 650 individual and group submissions were made by women to the Constitutional Commission,” she said.
The FWF also believes that nine working days is too short a time for the people of Fiji to adequately read, understand and raise their concerns about aspects of the State draft constitution and to participate effectively and substantively. Through experience, FWF knows that it will take weeks for many of the people, especially those in the rural and remote communities to read and understand the provisions in the draft and for many, translations and explanations will be required.”
The FWF is a national consultation to discuss the participation of women in national democratic processes, organized by femLINKPACIFIC, the National Council of Women, the Soqosoqo Vakamarama and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement.