Fiji Police and Church respond to sexual violence problem | Pacific Beat

Fiji Police and Church respond to sexual violence problem

Fiji Police and Church respond to sexual violence problem

Updated 5 February 2013, 20:13 AEDT

The rape of a nine month old baby in Fiji has shocked the country, and led to calls for increased efforts to stamp out sexual violence.

The incident comes as reported cases of rape are increasing, with ten occurring in January alone.

Commissioner of Police Brigadier General Ioane Naivalurua has called on church leaders to work with the police force because the issue is about morality within families, and police can't tackle the problem by themselves.

Police spokesman, Inspector Atunasia Sokomuri says they are doing what they can, but this is an issue that the whole of Fiji society must look at.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Deputy general secretary of the Fiji Methodist Church, Reverend Tevita Banivanua

SOKOMURI: The Fiji police force has been doing a lot of awareness amongst community on this issue and in relation to this we saw an increase of reporting to village police stations and community police posts throughout the country. We can say that due to the awareness that has been conducted by the Fiji police force and others which is enabled members of the community to better understand the laws that govern this issue, and as a result we have seen that a lot of reports or people are coming up into village police stations throughout the country to lodge the report.

HILL: So in fact it's not necessarily that there are more rapes, but more people are actually reporting them now?

SOKOMURI: Yeah that seems to be the case yeah.

HILL: Is this something that the police can tackle on their own or do you need the whole of society to try and tackle this issue?

SOKOMURI: Well the Commissioner of Police in his speech to the members of the Fiji police force in a parade last week publicly stated to the media that the issue of morality amongst the community is not a word that can be fought by the Fiji police force. It's an issue that needs the assistance of the combined efforts of all other stakeholders in the country, especially he singled out the churches here in Fiji, the churches have a huge task. As you all know the traditional setup of Fijian communities is centred around issues that traditional leaders and the church in the community or in the villages.

HILL: Is this a problem that concerns primarily women, or do you think it's an issue that men need to perhaps step up and take a bit of leadership about themselves?

SOKOMURI: You were correct in that sense that it's not only the women, but it's men who need to be educated on the rights of women and also the amendment to the laws, and they need to be briefed and need to learn that what they used to do before is not right now, and they can get into problems with the law.

HILL: Do the police have enough resources to be able to do their part to tackle the problem of violence against women?

SOKOMURI: Well just like in any other police organisation in the world, the Fiji police force on this issue is seeking the assistance of all stakeholders as you know that this problem is widespread throughout the community and we need all the assistance that we can get, even though that we are an arm of the government, but we do still need assistance from the community.

HILL: Fiji's influential Methodist Church says it has strong anti-violence programs. Deputy General Secretary, Reverend Tevita Banivanua, says men who claim authority over women by quoting the bible are misinterpreting scripture for their own ends.

BANIVANUA: The bible is clear that when the first two joined together the emphasis was on a strong sense of partnership, and that's how they should build up a family, a strong sense of partnership, no one needs to the higher, no one needs to be smaller. So the partnership idea is there, and I think that should be the interpretation of that text, rather than one is strong and the other one is weak and therefore this and that. So some people have been using that as you rightly suggested that the man being the one created first and according to the bible and also that the woman was taken out of the man, therefore they are a little bit inferior. That interpretation is also around, and it is not a good interpretation of the particular text, because it denies what the intentions of the creator himself or herself intended for the human race.

HILL: Are some men in Fiji do you think concerned or frightened by some of these new ideas about female equality? Do you think perhaps they feel a bit threatened by this and this violence might be a bit of a backlash against that?

BANIVANUA: Well if we take the issue at hand, the violence in terms of sexual violence and the morality, some are really not based on that, it's just the real lust and people are just out of their minds who do those things. But the women have a right I believe to assert themselves to be who they are, and of course the publication and the promotion of this idea, probably sometimes overboard, they have caused difficulties with some men. But generally I think those that are actually involved in this type of crime they're not doing it because of that, they're just doing it because of their inclination or whatever they want to call it.


Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.