Fiji continues to grapple with the difficulties of eradicating child and human trafficking. However, UN agencies and law officials in the country have gathered togather to find a solution.
Last week, United Nations child protection experts met with Fiji’s police forces for a two-day training session on preventing and combating child and human trafficking in the country. The Fiji Police Human Trafficking Working Group found that children under ten years old have been abducted or recruited into the commercial sex industry; these revelations came from the research done by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its partners, who interviewed 104 child sex workers in Fiji.
So far, said Fiji’s police commissioner Esala Teleni, the criminalization of human trafficking alone has been insufficient. More creative and comprehensive measures are needed.
Poverty, unemployment and a lack of opportunities for both men and women are the main causes of child trafficking. These are the conditions that enable and perpetuate “practices that commodify women and children and make their sale acceptable,” said Teleni.
The commercial sex industry in particular has been a main factor in the rise in “demand” for trafficked girls and women. For many women, prostitution is the only way they are able to feed their families; others sell children they cannot afford to take care of; many children are abducted or lured into the industry by middlemen. Also important is gender equality and improving the status of girls in women will also be necessary. Today 80% of women in Fiji have suffered from some form of domestic violence, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) reports. Dangerously, similar attitudes make the commodification and objectification of women acceptable, adversely affecting the welfare of the girl-child and women.
At the local and national levels, legislation is not enough. Better guardianship and protection of children is in order, as is safer and more consistent reporting of who is selling or buying children and why. Fiji has made inroads into trying to stop trafficking at the village level where it often originates by writing the rights of women and children into local regulations.
Country officials hope to educate the public on how to recognize human trafficking, for the social stigma against women engaged in prostitution is often suffered by women who have been forced into the commercial sex industry. Thus, even when rescued, life remains difficult and isolated for these women. Such an example of a rights-based approach to human trafficking is admirable and will help to bring about a clearer, rules-based environment.
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, Fijian officials have concluded—and they have not been the first to do so. It is with the same perseverance and commitment to human dignity with which slavery was abolished just shy of 200 years ago that child trafficking must be eradicated today.-SOS Children's Villages Canada