8 Oct 2020

Fiji police set up special taskforce due to growing cases of child abuse

4:30 pm on 8 October 2020

A special taskforce involving Fiji police and government agencies has been set up to promote and safeguard the wellbeing of children in Fiji following increasing reports of child abuse.

Fiji's acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Jitendra Nair, said police would also work within the inter-agency guidelines on child abuse and neglect.

"This enhancement of individuals, organizations understanding knowledge of legislations and policies associated with child abuse has been endorsed by the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, Fiji Police and the Ministry of Health."

Jitendra Nair.

Jitendra Nair. Photo: Fiji Police Force

Nair said those who "harbour innocent children who later become victims of domestic trafficking, sexual servitude and pornographic activities involving children" would be punished.

He said three people were currently serving prison terms of up to 14 years for similar offences.

According to the Fiji Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), 22 of the 31 victims of rape and sexual offences last month were children.

The ODPP said two of the 27 people charged with the alleged offences were children - a 16-year-old boy was charged for the alleged rape of two girls from his village, aged 8 and 9 while a 17-year-old boy was charged for allegedly raping his 15-year-old cousin.


.. Photo: File

The ODPP said there were 15 incidents where the victims and the accused were related to one another.

A United Nations report last week said that incidents of abuse against children in Fiji were "usually performed by family members, foreign tourists, taxi drivers, businesspeople and crew on foreign fishing vessels".

The UN Pacific Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Covid-19 in Fiji Report said the most common forms of child sexual exploitation in Fiji are prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking.

OHCHR tells Fiji committee that abuse of children was prevalent.

Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it's concerned sexual exploitation and abuse of children was prevalent in Fiji.

In its submission to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence Tuesday, human rights officer Momoko Nomura said the high commissioner was even more alarmed that children were being sexually exploited for money due to poverty.

Nomura said these offences were being done through organised child prostitution networks and brothels.

From left, top: OHCHR Human Rights officer Momoka Nomura, legal officer Releshni Karan and members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.

From left, top OHCHR Human Rights officer Momoka Nomura, legal officer Releshni Karan and members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Photo: Supplied

She called on Fiji to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

The Fiji government signed the protocol on 16 September 2005 but had yet to ratify it.

Nomura said a UN Committee on the Rights of a Child had reviewed the situation for children in Fiji in 2014.

She said that committee found sexual exploitation and abuse of children was prevalent through organised child prostitution networks and brothels.

Nomura said the committee also observed that sexual exploitation was closely linked to poverty with pressure being placed on children to earn money.

Nomura said both boys and girls in street situations were exploited in prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking.

"Fiji is a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour with child victims of trafficking being exploited in illegal brothels, local hotels and private homes," she said.

"The committee also noted with concern that specialised services, taking into account special and particular needs of children, are not readily available in Fiji with services for boys almost non-existent."

Nomura said the UN report released last week also warned of an increase in online sexual exploitation of children because of restrictions in movement due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Additionally, the poverty rate is also expected to increase according to the study between 1.3 percent in the best case scenario and 7.1 percent in the worst scenario," she said.

"Given that poverty is one of the key factors for sale and sexual exploitation of children, there may be an increased risk for children in this regard."

Nomura said ratification of the UN Protocol would send a strong message nationally, regionally and internationally in "Fiji's commitment to protect children from the most egregious types of harm, namely sexual exploitation and sexual abuse."

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