SUVA, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama speaks out on Friday about domestic violence in the island nation, calling men who hit their wives or daughters "cowards".
Bainimarama said Fiji still suffered from a culture of rape and abuse which must be stopped and Fijians have been urged to end this cycle of violence.
This was a cowardly act that will not be tolerated, he said, adding that any man that hits a woman is weak.
"Any man who hits his wife or daughter is not showing strength, he is nothing but a coward. But today let's concentrate on the positive. On this International Women's Day, take a moment out to give a big 'Vinaka'(Thank you) to a woman or girl who has changed your life," he said.
Speaking about International Women's Day on Friday, Bainimarama said, "This is a day where countries come together each year to recognize the tremendous impact women have on our societies, economies and our nations."
He said Fiji owed much of her prosperity today to women with their visible footprints on the society undeniable and everywhere.
"Here in Fiji, our women are uplifted like never before, something that was made very clear by last year's election where we saw an unprecedented number of female parliamentarians win seats. We have more women starting a business every year, they're participating in expanded micro-financing and our booming women's expo and they're pushing our communities to change for the better."
Bainimarama said this was also an opportunity to focus on issues affecting girls and women in Fiji from gender equality to female empowerment, promoting entrepreneurship and preventing domestic abuse.
He urged every Fijian to pledge to treat women with the respect they deserved.
Fiji's rates of violence against women are among the highest in the world. The Fiji Women's Crisis Center reported that 64 percent of women who have been in intimate relationships have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners, including 61 percent who were physically attacked and 34 percent who were sexually abused.