11 Mar 2021

Fiji judge threatens harsher jail term for child rapists

10:24 am on 11 March 2021

A judge in Fiji has warned that anyone convicted of child-rape should be prepared to spend at least 11 years in prison.

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Photo: 123RF

Justice Salesi Temo made the comment during a case involving a 35-year-old man accused of raping a 14-year-old boy on the island of Kadavu last year.

He said the courts are cracking down on child molestors because rape against children is too prevalent in Fiji.

The court was told the accused had committed the alleged offence while on a bench warrant for another matter before the magistrates court.

Justice Temo said the charges against the accused were serious and he remanded the man until his trial later this year.

Meanwhile, the Women's Crisis Centre said about 95 percent of child rapes in Fiji were committed by relatives or people known to the victims.

The centre's co-ordinator, Shamima Ali, said statistics revealed at a recent Editors Dialogue organised by FWCC and the Fijian Media Association showed 50 cases of child sexual abuse were mainly rape-related.

Ali said for children raped, only five percent were strangers which she added is very shocking.

"It shows that 95 percent of rape is done by people who are trusted by the family," she said.

Ali also highlighted that 80 percent of rapists were known to the survivors.

Of all the rape cases recorded by FWCC, it was revealed that 50 percent of them were committed by the relatives of the survivors.

Ali said police are the major stakeholders and in some cases, it was difficult to get the officers to assist the survivors to secure a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

A nationwide curfew from 11pm to 4am is in force.

Ali said it was also difficult to get welfare officers to attend to cases of child sexual abuse.

She said the shift from manual to online mode during the pandemic also affected survivors.

She said the Legal Aid Commission had started to receive legal assistance applications online during the lockdown periods which made it 'difficult for survivors as some did not have access to the internet or financial means to apply online'.

Ali said despite the ongoing challenges and institutional barriers posed, the women's crisis centre would ensure that survivors are safe and their rights protected.