Fijians Demand Justice and Accountability for Cleaner Rugby
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We the undersigned are Fijians deeply concerned by the preferential treatment given to sex offenders and other violent offenders by the Fiji Corrections Service (FCS).
In October 2019, convicted rapist and former national 7s rugby player, Amenoni Nasilasila was seen training with the Tuvalu Rugby team in the lead up to the Oceania Rugby 7s tournament. This was just 5 days after he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by the Lautoka High Court.
After a huge outcry by Fijians on social media and statements from UNWomen, Oceania Rugby and women’s rights groups, his special privileges were stopped, and FCS confirmed that Nasilasila’s reintegration process would commence once he undergoes all the relevant treatment programs at the Corrections Service.
Nine months later on 7 July 2020, the Fiji Sun reported that Nasilasila was training in public again, this time with the Namosi Rugby Union in preparation for the Skipper Cup, a Fiji Rugby Union sanctioned competition.
Apart from Nasilasila, there are other sex offenders and inmates who have been given special privileges to play sports in public. According to FCS Director of Rehabilitation, Senior Superintendent Salote Panapasa, “Nasilasila is not the first prisoner to be allowed to participate in public sports nor will he be the last”.
In October 2019, former national 7s rugby player, Nacanieli Labalaba was convicted of gang-rape and assault and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment with five other men. Barely months into his sentence, Labalaba has now been spotted playing rugby for FCS’s Prison Wardens team.
This petition acknowledges the work and efforts of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, the Fiji Women's Rights Movement and other women's groups who have advocated against sexual violence and violence against women over the years and continue to do so. We can only build on from the platform they have established for us. This petition is in collaboration with them and recognizes their ongoing efforts and work.
According to a research study by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, 71% of Fijian women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by either a partner or non-partner since they turned 15. The statistics show that rape and sexual assault is perpetrated by those known to the victims or are in a position of trust or power.
An analysis by the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement found that there were 101 rape cases decided in the High Court in 2019. The average final sentence meted by the High Court for sexual offences has increased over the period of 2016- 2018 and has slightly dropped in 2019. The highest sentence for 2019 was 20 years and 6 months. In 2018, Fiji’s first life sentence was meted, which is the maximum sentence for rape. The Judiciary is doing its role in deterring sexual offences through high custodial sentences and Fijians are assured that perpetrators will be held accountable by our criminal justice system.
The Fijian Government has recognised that Fiji is facing an epidemic of violence against women and girls in both public and private spaces and has announced plans to develop a historic National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in 2020.
Under FCS’s Rehabilitation Policy, sex offenders must remain in Maximum Prison until the reintegration process starts 12 months before their Earliest Possible date of Discharge (EPD).
In 2017, the Commissioner of Prisons is quoted as saying that “sex offenders will be held in isolation at Naboro Maximum Prison as part of the FCS’s rehabilitation plan and that the first step for treatment required ownership of the crime and providing the right environment for self-realisation”. According to Mr Kean, this first step cannot happen in an open environment.
Sex offenders and other violent offenders being allowed to play rugby in public within months since their sentencing makes a mockery of our criminal justice system and is in violation of FCS’s own Rehabilitation Policy.
The actions and responses of FCS send a dangerous message to the public that sex offenders will not be held to account, especially those who have sporting talents. It encourages rape culture.
Many courageous survivors from Fiji triggered by the recent events have anonymously shared their stories on social media and mainstream media. Most perpetrators of rape go unreported or unpunished and it is the same elsewhere as rape is believed to be the most under-reported crime.
Special treatment of convicted sex offenders is inhumane and ignores the reality of victims and survivors of sexual violence and the life-long trauma they face. It is an insult to victims and survivors. It is an insult to those working hard to dismantle our rape culture.
We demand that the Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) launch an immediate investigation into the actions of the Fiji Corrections Service. Under the Fijian Constitution, the Commissioner of Prisons is appointed by the COC thus they are accountable to all Fijians.
We demand that FCS engage in the rehabilitation of sex offenders and that this category of offenders not be utilised in, nor access the privilege of, public engagement, including but not limited to, any form of public sports (like all offenders, they may access sports and exercise within the corrections facilities).
We demand that FCS work with leading women’s groups and development partners to ensure that re-education programs for inmates convicted of sexual offences and violence against women are comprehensive and address specific attitudes and behaviors.
We demand that FCS consult with leading women’s groups and development partners on any reintegration or restorative justice initiatives for inmates convicted of sexual offences and violence against women, due to the sensitivity required for victims and survivors.
We the undersigned say: No one is above the law!
Rugby, sporting achievements and talent should not ever be valued over the lives and bodies of women and girls.
The sport of rugby is ours as a country and we demand CLEAN RUGBY, a rugby that does not condone rape culture and violence against women and girls.
We should all work together to improve justice for all Fijians- our women, girls, men, boys, and persons of all diversities and backgrounds.
Fiji Corrections Service
Fiji Rugby Union
Namosi Rugby Union
Minister for Defence and National Security
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation
Minister of Youth and Sports
Sponsors of Fiji Rugby:
CJ Patel Limited
Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji Limited
International Sports Clothing
Tappoo Group of Companies
Mobil Oil Fiji
Telecom Fiji Limited
Fiji Broadcasting Corporation
United Apparel Fiji Limited
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