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Fiji Police say they are aware of cases involving girls being used for commercial sex with yachties who come to Fiji.
However, assistant police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said he still had to get an update and report from the Fiji Police Border Security team on the issue.
Inspector Sokomuri's comment came in the wake of concern raised by the Homes of Hope over what it claims is an increase in commercial sex involving young girls and yachties who visit Fiji. The home provides support and shelter for single mothers and is based in Suva.
However, Fiji Yachting Association president Tony Philp believes it would be unfair to point a finger at the entire yachting industry.
Mr Philp said so far this year 300 yachts had visited Savusavu but it was not fair to blame all of them for cases involving commercial sex. He said there may be extremely isolated cases and the reports on the cases are more likely to be on general tourism instead of yachties only.
Homes of Hope co-ordinator Lynne Roche claimed girls had been taken onto yachts and had been involved in commercial sex with yachties often arranged by a middleman or one of the yacht owners.
Girls have also been offered as sexual objects to government officials for favours for certain villages and fathers have offered daughters to bosses for promotions and salary increment, she said.
“In one case a single mother was forced to have sex with a village elder so she could stay in the village,” she said.
“For all the girls that have been through the home, 41 per cent were raped, 27 per cent are victims of rape and 27 per cent encountered some form of abuse,” she said.
Figures provided by Ms Roche showed 47 per cent of the girls came from families where parents were divorced.
The youngest single mother at the Homes of Hope was 13-years old, 23 per cent were under 18 and 8 per cent had only been educated up to primary school level.
The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre believes the sale of girls and wives by fathers and husbands was an ongoing phenomenon.
FWCC co-ordinator Shamima Ali said it was not an epidemic but was happening.
Ms Ali said the FWCC did not have statistics on the issue but they had women who report the cases to the centre.
She said the issue of sex trade and young girls being victims of the trade was visible in the local community.
“You can go into some hotels and see some young girls and boys accompanied by much older men and no questions asked. Some of our own locals also prefer younger girls and are continually harassing them,” said Ms Ali.
She said the FWCC was doing its part in raising awareness on the issue and how members of the community could protect their daughters.
SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS
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