Fiji: Family Law Bill passed

Fiji Women's Rights Movement
The Fiji Women's Rights Movement applauds the members of the House of Representatives for making a stand for social justice.
The Family Law Bill, which is a culmination of 13 years work for the Movement, was unanimously passed by the Lower House of Parliament on 14th October 2003.
The Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) Coordinator, Virisila Buadromo described the Lower House's endorsement as a victory for the families of Fiji, especially its women and children. The reform in Family Law legislation had been a long time coming and it has been worth the wait. FWRM believes that the debate generated in and outside Parliament, although at times misguided, was needed to ensure that the views of the majority were considered.

"Apart from Fiji's 1997 Constitution, the Family Law Bill is the only proposed legislation which provides a level playing field for women and men," said Ms Buadromo. "It provides for the recognition of women's non-financial contribution to a marriage whereby domestic house wives will be able to claim a share in the matrimonial property should divorce occur - a feature which is not available under the current law."

''The right of the child to be raised in an environment that will help in her/his development is also addressed in the Bill. It gives the court direction on what matters to look into in relation to child custody, access and maintenance," added Ms Buadromo.

"For the first time, men will not be discriminated against in any family matter. They will have the same rights as women to apply for child custody and maintenance, as well as spousal maintenance - should they qualify. The same criteria's of eligibility will apply equally to both female and male applicants."

Although the Bill still needs Senate endorsement, FWRM would like to commend the hard work put in by the Fiji Law Reform Commission, the Attorney General Q B Bale, the First Parliamentary Counsel Rupeni Nawaqakuta, the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice, Law & Order, and Social Services, as well as Judge Alan Bartlett who all have significantly and substantively contributed to the successful passage of the FLB through the Lower House.

Senate sits next week to deliberate over the Bill.

115 Robertson Road, Suva
GPO Box 14194, Suva, Fiji
Tel: (679) 3313 156 Fax: (679) 3313 466

PRESS STATEMENT – Fiji Law Reform Commissioner P. Imrana Jalal


Commissioner Imrana Jalal of the Fiji Law Reform Commission, on the Methodist Church response to the Family Law Bill.

“I am disappointed that despite all our efforts to demonstrate that there is nothing in the Family Law Bill which legally recognizes same sex marriages or de facto marriages at workshops and seminars certain sectors of the Methodist Church continue to hold steadfast to this view.

I cannot believe that the hierarchy of the Church believes this.

“I categorically deny that any section of the Bill recognizes same sex marriages or de facto marriages."

“If Rev Lasaro continues to insist despite all evidence to the contrary that the Bill allows homosexuals to marry what section of the Bill allows that? Can he point me to the exact section? If he can find the section we will take it out of the Bill. I give him my word on that."

“Only an amendment to the Marriage Act will change marriage laws and we are not touching the Marriage Act."

“Can Rev Lasaro also point to the section that recognizes de facto marriages? If he can tell me what section it is we will take that section out too. I give him my word on that too."

“How can putting in a whole new chapter which promotes marriage reconciliation counseling using the Churches which does not exist now encourage divorce? In fact it does the opposite. Divorce is available immediately already on several grounds with no waiting periods. The Bill forces people to wait for one year to allow for a cooling-off period, and then says that divorce will only be available after that if the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This must be proven in Court before a Magistrate. Doesn’t the Church trust the Magistrates to make a proper decision based on fact and law? Most Magistrates are Christians."

Commissioner Jalal also said that the "no fault'' system of divorce has been introduced in Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru, with no significant increases in divorce rates. Is Rev Lasaro suggesting that these countries are not good Christian countries?"

“ I categorically state also that the Bill in no way affects Fijian land ownership or chiefly titles. That is governed by the Constitution, the Vola ni Kawa Bula and customary law. The Bill cannot override constitutional law. Many indigenous Fijians have been misled into believing that their rights as Fijians will be affected. That is completely untrue. Again if the scaremongers can point to the specific sections that they say will do this, we will take that out too."

"I welcome Rev Lasaro to debate the issue with me on radio or television so that the public can hear the truth."