“A woman should be beaten if she deserves punishment”: Conversations with men and women in Fiji Islands

Stream: Legal and Policy Responses to Violence against Women
Date: Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Time: 3.15 pm – 5.00 pm


This paper draws on the contributions of many women and men in Fiji who participated in a rapid qualitative assessment on gender and economic choices informing the World Bank’s World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality. Here, I present men’s and women’s accounts of domestic conflict and violence by asking the focus groups to reflect on what typically happens in their communities when a wife is not a good wife or husband is not a good husband. Economic factors are perceived to be a principal trigger, but focus group narratives revealed that slowly changing norms for acceptable roles and conduct also contribute to violence. The focus groups’ narratives consistently reported that men who are unable to fulfill their provider role often act out their frustrations with violence, and it remains acceptable in many communities to sanction women harshly for minor infractions that are perceived as challenging male authority or norms of feminine conduct. In rethinking the notion of “hegemonic masculinity,” this paper explores how men choose their discursive positions when it appears to be challenged and how it complicates women’s agency that require resisting or relaxing the gender norms that govern their traditional roles and responsibilities.


Priya Chattier (Presenter), The Australian National University
Dr Priya Chattier is a Pacific research fellow with the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, ANU and was a lead researcher for the World Bank study in Fiji. Prior to joining SSGM, Priya pioneered and headed University of the South Pacific’s first-ever Gender Studies programme. Priya's work is located at the intersections of academic and activist work on gender equality, women's economic empowerment, gender relations, and social change in contemporary Fiji and the Pacific Island Countries.