13 May 2003

Fiji churches welcome tougher sentences for sex crimes

9:13 am on 13 May 2003

Fiji's churches have welcomed tough new sentences passed by parliament for sexual offences.

The Fiji Times reports that under amendments to the Penal Code, those who commit incest now face sentences of up to 20 years.

Females over the age of 16 consenting to incest can also face a maximum sentences of 20 years.

People who detain a women for immoral purposes face 12 years in jail while those who own or manage a brothel will now be guilty of a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in jail and a maximum fine of 50-thousand US dollars.

The head of the Methodist Church's Indian division, the Reverend Immanuel Reben, says the harsher sentences should be a warning for those involved in these crimes and will allow girls a freer life.

But he says offenders should not be represented by lawyers as this gives theme the chance to walk free.

Pastor Tom Osbourne of the Seventh Day Adventist Church says he supports the increase in penalties if it helps in rehabilitation.

During debate in parliament, some MPs called for even harsher sentences such as chopping off limbs or castration for sexual offenders but these were rejected by the House.