9 Nov 2004

Solomons police chief says presence of extra female officers is encouraging women to report rapes

7:31 pm on 9 November 2004

Solomon Islands top policeman says more rape victims are coming forward after the hiring of more female police officers.

Commissioner Bill Morrell says rape and domestic violence continue to plague the Solomons despite the presence of the Regional Assistance Mission, but he said more female police officers meant more rape victims were reporting assaults.

Amnesty International said this week that hundreds of women continued to be raped each year but many victims do not speak out for fear for their safety.

Commissioner Morrell described rape numbers as "appalling".

He says it is only with the arrival of RAMSI and the first female recruits that women have had the confidence to report rapes.

In its report, Amnesty said hundreds of cases of rape, torture and other violence remained unresolved following the country's five-year civil war.

It said many women had been raped by personnel from the country's police force - but were too scared to ask for help.

16 women graduated from the police academy last week, taking the number of women in the force to 76.

More women are expected to graduate in coming months.