Fiji police urged to crack down on child sex traffickers
The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre says there must be both a mindset and policy change to combat child sex trafficking.
The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is urging the police to come down hard on those involved in the trafficking of young boys and girls for sex.
The Fiji police told local media it has uncovered the domestic sex trafficking of children following a two year investigation.
The centre's executive director, Shamima Ali, says she knows of boys and girls as young as nine being prostituted out of their homes or on the street.
She told Mary Baines that the problem is widespread and there needs to be both a change of mindset and policy for the problem to be combatted.
SHAMIMA ALI: It's right across the spectrum. Most vulnerable of course are the street kids, those who are out there or whose parents are begging on the streets. So these children are very vulnerable and we do know both boys and girls have been used, prostituted. And then you have runaway children who seek refuge with people that are not related to them. There are also pimping types who are around and who prey on these young, vulnerable kids. And then there are those who are being pimped out of their own homes. So it's right across.
MARY BAINES: So is it local people exploiting these children, or foreigners as well?
SA: It's mostly, from the stories we have been told, local people, and of course if we are talking about Nadi and so on, the tourism areas, it's tourists. We have to look at men and their behaviour. Because these are older men, older men who should know better. And these are the men who are using these young girls. You know there is a certain kind of mindset that we need to change, and it's quite unbelievable the despicable acts being committed on some of these children.
MB: So what can be done here, apart from changing mindsets? Do you think the police are doing enough to crack down on this?
SA: They need to do a lot more. The police force is quite under-resourced. So those resources need to be poured in, they need to be specially trained to be able to detect, be able to investigate. You know, this case here itself took nearly two years for them to actually uncover all the facts. The other thing is also what enables people to pimp women, there's also the issue of poverty - the most vulnerable are the girls who come out of poverty. So we need to have better economic policies, we need to have education for young girls - that should be a priority. And equal sharing of resources and things like that. You know, those are the root causes, and those things need to be addressed as well as responses, as well as education. You know sometimes in these cases some big men are involved, so you know there are also issues around corruption, where the orders are coming from, where people are told not to investigate, and things like that. So there are a whole range of things at play in this whole prostitution business.
MB: Do you think the law itself is strong enough to deal with these cases?
SA: I think there needs to be some strengthening around that too, and I think the police force are working on that. And, you know, I mean we are churning out decrees so it shouldn't be too hard to do one but it has to be well thought out. Stakeholders have to be involved in this, all stakeholders - government and non-government, but what we have at the moment particularly in the Crimes Decree is quite enough to deal with it immediately but we need a long-term response in the legal system, criminal justice system.
Shamima Ali says her centre has the resources to help those children being exploited, and is imploring victims to seek help.
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