Fiji — A country of beautiful tropical islands that holds many secrets and the tragedy of modern-day slavery. Political instability has gripped Fiji for at least the past 20 years. In April of 2009, then President Iloilo completely dismantled the country’s constitution. The current Prime Minister Bainimarama, who led a coup in 2006, and President Nailatikau now enforce a military government, restrict freedom of speech, and are delaying any elections until 2014 at the earliest. Despite the precariouspolitical situation, according to the US State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, a hopeful amount of progress in the fight against sex trafficking occurred this past year.
Fiji is both a source and destination country for sex trafficking. Fijian children are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation by family members and taxi drivers, while deceived Chinese women are sex-trafficked into the country using student or tourist visas. In an effort to eliminate trafficking, in 2009, the old Penal Code was replaced with the new Crimes Decree, which defines trafficking as a crime of compelled service that does not necessarily involve crossing a border or otherwise moving a victim. Additionally, the government began training law enforcement officers and held anti-trafficking conferences, which significantly increased publicity about the presence of human trafficking. The 2010 TIP Report notes this progress, but clarifies that Fiji is on the Tier 2 Watch List because trafficking offenders have yet to actually be investigated or convicted. Also, a formal system for victim identification or of referrals to NGOs, like Shared Hope International’s partner in Fiji, has not been implemented.
Due to the unstable government and the restriction of the media to cover these issues, I would concur that the 2010 TIP Report’s rating of Tier 2 Watch List is appropriate. Considering the precarious nature of the political situation, I think it is an accomplishment that Fiji managed to remove itself from the 2009 Tier 3 ranking and move up one level to the Tier 2 Watch List. The reality that a questionable government decided to pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law sheds some hope on the future of the fight against trafficking in Fiji. Now, we hope that we don’t have to wait much longer until the government takes action to justly enforce the legislation while protecting and providing services to victims of trafficking.
Shared Hope International is presently active in Fiji through the provision of resources to fund aVillage of Hope and the Women’s Investment Network (WIN) program. The Village of Hope has room for over 200 women and children who are victims or at high risk of sex trafficking, serving as a place of refuge and personal restoration. The Village offers training for marriage and parenting, provides housing in residential homes, and encourages Christian discipleship. Additionally, it operates within an environment modeled after extended family relationships. The WIN program teaches vocational skills and seeks to enable women towards full recovery and reintegration back into the community. Participants help operate a bakery, flower business, and hospitality center, and are given the chance to be trained as teachers.