Legal eagles kept on their toes

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC) Manager legal services Miliana Tarai. Picture: FWCC

Helping beleaguered women access judicial services is but one of the duties shouldered by the five-member legal team at Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC).

It is with this zeal that Miliana Tarai, the manager legal services, heads her team to provide initial support to counsellor advocates responsible for looking after women who seek assistance at FWCC.

However, when there is a need for further legal assistance, this is when the team steps in.

From January to December last year, the FWCC rendered about 254 legal information to new survivors, including giving legal advice and preparing legal documents.

Ms Tarai said in many instances, cases might not seem urgent to stakeholders like the judiciary or legal practitioners representing women.

“To the women themselves who are trying to access justice, for them, those things are urgent. One of the things that we usually see are maintenance cases, so usually that gets deferred a lot.

“You have interim maintenance that’s there. But for women, they would like to see their cases being finalised. So for them, those things are urgent, because you know, they’ll need money. To support themselves and their children.”

Ms Tarai said in many instances, they were told the court diary was full, which was understandable.

“The underlying point is that women, especially women who are undergoing domestic violence issues, they would like to see their cases being resolved quickly. We have those kinds of cases.

“One of the things that we see when it comes to cases concerning women, it usually takes a while for it to be resolved.

“I guess that is why it’s important for stakeholders like everyone in the judiciary, legal practitioners that deal with cases that represent women or concerning women, they need to be gender sensitised, so that they see the link between gender and gender-based violence and family law matters.

“The lawyers, who are based here at the crisis centre, our role is to support the counsellor advocates, and they usually call us when they’re stuck, where they need more legal information.

“Like I said, it’s very important for legal practitioners who are working in this area to be gender sensitised.”

She said it was important for these practitioners to be gender sensitised by experts so that they were able to contextualise such issues and see the link to understand how important such issues were to the women they were representing.

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