Dr Nicole George





The Pacific Island region’s gender advocates have been untiring in their efforts to challenge violence against women in their countries for three decades. Recent instances of policy reform on this issue suggest increasing government support for this agenda.  Yet rates of gendered violence in Pacific Islands countries remain high.  In this paper I reflect on the results of a 3-year research project I have conducted in Fiji, Bougainville, and New Caledonia examining how women’s capacities to safely resist this violence are mediated by layered sets of social, political and economic institutions. My findings show that while standard assertions of “rights to security" are well-understood by women at the community level, confidence in the institutional sources of support which might make this right concrete appear low.  When asked about how safety becomes achievable, strategies of “private prudentialism” and “self-policing”, were frequently reported by research participants as the key, and sometimes only, means to resist insecurity.  This suggests, somewhat disturbingly, that the principle of women’s “right” to security, is mediated through everyday, “relations of ruling”, so that it is received by many women in these settings as a discourse of gendered temperance.  

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