Rise In Rape Cases: We Have Lost Moral Values
Ask any outsider about Fiji, they will without any doubt say Fiji is beautiful, and people are indeed friendly. Some will say that the small Pacific Island is where time stops and ‘we are on Fiji time’.
However, the perception of local people is different. The youth and older generation are confronted with numerous challenges. Some of which includes: unemployment, increased poverty, health and wellbeing, and trying to live in a peaceful environment.
It is true that generational change is resulting in some of the alarming social issues. One such alarming social issue is the increased rape cases. Linking to this increased phenomenon amongst citizens, is increased consumption of kava, alcohol and drugs.
It is worth noting that most of the rape cases are happening in regional communities in villages. In these locations people have basic education attainment, zero employment with huge reliance on farming.
A new trend that is emerging in these communities is increased consumption of kava amongst young women.
Many rape cases are reported and perpetrators are punished though legal systems. In many instances, large number of cases are not reported. In our society, some parents or victims are afraid to report matters to the Police.
Some are not confident with the legal system and the process involved, and many others are confronted with traditional beliefs and values. Whilst the society believes that the perpetrators should be punished, the victims are confronted with lack of societal support.
Rather than supporting the victims to rise and become strong, we are in fact blaming the victims with day to day blame, gossip, and scaremongering.
The victims are threatened, abused, harassed, and in some instances key leaders within the community find them weak and further abuse is experienced.
In our society, we disadvantage the victims in many ways. We fail to support and educate victims, we fail to provide better health and wellbeing, and we fail to develop victims to become change agents through various capacity building initiatives.
Various stakeholders are consistently failing in this matter. Taking a bottom up approach, individuals in the community are failing to uphold moral standards.
Youths are raping women who are from the same community and in some way related to each other. The long tradition of leading authority in the village such as ‘turaga ni koro’ are also failing their responsibility. Such roles have played an active part in improving social cohesion, and strengthening community wellbeing.
Remote settlements in both iTaukei and Indian community have traditionally been very active in practicing religion. Therefore, religious leaders in regional communities have traditionally played a significant role in education, preaching, and building peace within the community.
The religious leaders have been strong advocates against violence, use of drugs and alcohol and other local issues. Unfortunately, religious leaders irrespective of the religion are failing in their role to build peaceful communities. Governments and their agencies are also failing their responsibilities.
While perpetrators are sentenced, the root cause of the problem and sustainable solution is yet to be implemented. The Police is failing to patrol in regional communities to raise the awareness of their existence at local level.
The Government is well resourced to provide capacity for new initiatives; however genuine effort is yet to be seen. I have always argued that education is the solution to all social and economic challenges.
The Government through its various agencies need to take a collaborative approach in tackling the alarming issue.
Collaboration between the Police, health, social welfare and non-government organisations is needed. Targeted education programmes and monitoring community behaviour is key to combat rape cases.
Victims need to be identified and relevant education needs to be provided so that they are in workforce with the capacity to change their own lives.
Through education and employment, the victims will become active change agents.
The current problem is attributed to individuals in the community and the leaders. There is strong evidence to suggest that majority of people are drifting away from religion.
Therefore, the criterion of what is good and bad has significantly changed. The older generation can attest my view based on how communities were peaceful before compared to the current time.
Only human efforts cannot bring any good results – the Government needs to do more to ensure zero cases and victims need to be genuinely supported through education, and employment initiatives.
Mahsood Shah is an associate professor and deputy dean of the faculty of business and law at CQ University, Australia. The views in this article are his own and not the University.