29 May 2003

Senate agrees to tougher penal code for violence and sex crimes

5:28 pm on 29 May 2003

Fiji's Senate has passed a penal code amendment bill providing for sharply increased sentences for serious sexual offences such as rape and incest, and robbery with violence.

But it has rejected both extreme measures and cultural leniency advocated by some Government senators.

Among these were a call by Senator Apisai Tora, a converted Muslim, for sex offenders to be stoned to death or castrated.

He proposed stoning to death for the most serious offences such as paedophilia and incest, and castration for other offences such as rape and defilement followed by lifetime banishment to some remote atoll.

Government Senator Kenneth Low called for the legalisation of brothels to reduce sexual offenders.

But another senator, Asesela Ravuvu, said indigenous Fijians would suffer most from increased penalties in the Government bill.

Senator Ravuvu said the majority of offenders in prison are indigenous Fijians because of the inability of the current legal system to take cultural differences into account.

When the bill was passed, the Minister for Justice, Qoriniasi Bale, appealed to the judiciary to implement the tougher sentences whcih can be up to a maximum of life imprisonment.