To advocate against child abuse, 19November has been designated as the National “Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect” day (PCAN) with the theme: “Healthy Homes Help Children Grow”.
It is not a day to celebrate but rather reflect as child abuse is prevalent in Fiji and is an ongoing challenge as we try and combat such horrendous acts against children.
A total of 1141 child abuse cases was recorded by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation last year alone and neglect tops the list as the highest form of abuse against children.
Out of the forms of abuse, Child Sexual Abuse continues to rise with crimes ranging from attempt to commit rape, abduction of a young person, indecent assault, defilement and sexual assault.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution recorded a total of 136 cases of child sexual abuse from January to October alone this year.
Save the Children Fiji Chief Executive Officer, Shairana Ali said, “the growing trend and increased reported cases are mainly because of awareness done by service providers that has enabled and encouraged victims or their family members to report”.
Children have the right to be protected and it is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that their rights are met, Ms Ali said.
Ms Ali said, “this year’s PCAN theme signifies the need to improve our parenting skills and prioritise children’s welfare so they are able to grow well and become good citizens of Fiji.
While SC Fiji applauds and commends the Government of Fiji for imposing harsh penalties, such measures need to be coordinated between Government agencies, the private sector, faith based groups and civil society organisations to strengthen the safety net to keep children safe”.
Ms Ali calls on the state and everybody to collectively commit ourselves to end violence against children now – this is a national issue that needs urgent national attention!
“It is sad to see reports being highlighted nearly everyday about child abuse and even more sad and disheartening to hear that perpetrators are either related to the child or known by the child.”
Ms Ali added, “Fiji is well positioned to work collaboratively with stakeholders to established a combined effort to end violence against children.
This is possible given our strong national and traditional governance systems and with the support of a strong faith-based network”.
“Let the best interests of the children of Fiji be of paramount importance and let us all work together to protect them from violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and all other emerging issues and let us work towards the protection and safety of our children”, Ms Ali said.