9 Sep 2020

Fiji communities empowered to fight child abuse

6:12 am on 9 September 2020

Warning - Readers may find some details in this story distressing..

Confronted by the rise of child sexual abuse in Fiji, NGO Save the Children is forming community based child protection committees.

The NGO's Fiji chief executive, Shairana Ali, said the committees would act as custodians for children and monitor their well-being.

Sharaina Ali is the chief executive of Fiji NGO Save the Children.

Sharaina Ali is the chief executive of Fiji NGO Save the Children. Photo: Save the Children

"The committees are responsible for preventing child abuse and reporting cases of abuse to relevant authorities," Ali said.

The move follows data released by the Office of the Director Of Public Prosecutions showing 13 cases of alleged sexual abuse of under 18-year-olds last month.

Particularly disturbing is that rape topped the offences involving young children, Ali said.

They involved the alleged rape of a seven-year-old boy by his 17-year-old uncle, and A 53-year-old man charged with the rape of his 12-year-old nephew.

"There was one incident where a 54-year-old man, a 37-year-old man and a 22-year-old man were charged with the rape of a six-year-old girl," the office said.

"All accused persons allegedly committed the offence separately and at different times."

While praising the prosecutor's office for acting swiftly to indict alleged perpetrators, Ali said the government needed to commit to ending violence against children.

Fiji was well positioned to form a strong alliance on child protection that included faith-based organizations to address the issue, she said.

"Article 19 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Fiji signed in 1993, states that children must be protected from abuse, neglect, and exploitation therefore as a signatory of the Convention, duty-bearers must ensure that children's safety and protection is paramount," Ali said.

"Under the Fiji Constitution, every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, any form of violence, inhumane treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour."

Communities in Fiji are being encouraged to take ownership of their children's well-being.

Communities in Fiji are being encouraged to take ownership of their children's well-being. Photo: Supplied