2 Oct 2020

UN report finds sexual exploitation of children a concern in Fiji

12:31 pm on 2 October 2020

A United Nations report has revealed that commercial sexual exploitation of children continues to occur in Fiji.

Children violence. boy, lad with her hand extended signaling to stop Children violence. boy, lad with her hand extended signaling to Stop, call for help, struggle, terrified, violence

Photo: 123rf

The UN Pacific Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Covid-19 in Fiji Report was presented to the government before its announcement of the 2020-2021 National Budget in July.

The report, released publicly this week, found incidents of abuse were "usually performed by family members, foreign tourists, taxidrivers, businesspeople and crew on foreign fishing vessels."

The report said the most common forms of child sexual exploitation are prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking.

The report also found that often children trapped in these activities are involved in all of them.

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

Its 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

According to the UN report, sexual exploitation of children in Fiji was more prevalent in urban areas and the person who facilitated the exchange was usually known to the victim.

The report said the main drivers for child sexual exploitation were poverty, homelessness and living away from parents.

"The impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown are disproportionate on children from marginalised minority groups, street-connected and homeless, who are already more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labour."

The report said while restrictions on movement might change the forms of abuse, there was a possible increase in online sexual exploitation of minors.

As an appropriate response to the pandemic, the report said social protection programmes needed to address the increased challenges faced by the most vulnerable children.

It also said Fiji laws must tackle the multiple layers and forms of child exploitation.

It recommended social protection programmes for households with children especially those at risk of falling into poverty.

The report said this could have a positive impact on reducing the incidence of child labour and school dropout.

It said initiatives aimed to incentivise enrolment and completion of secondary education could be effective - not only in tackling child labour but also in reducing the long-term cycle of poverty.

A report by End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) International and Save the Children Fiji had found "children in street situations result from urbanization."

The report also said children were vulnerable to multiple forms of labour and sexual exploitation, including prostitution and trafficking.