Fiji Sun

SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 30) – The thought of a 12-year-old girl being alone on the Lautoka streets will horrify the whole nation of Fiji. If she is not already involved in the sex trade, she probably soon will be.

The presence of street kids and prostitutes in our town and city streets has been a headache for years. No sooner do the police move them on or in some cases find reasons to charge them than they simply reappear somewhere else.

The sex trade is a particularly unpleasant aspect of our modern lives. There have been credible reports of schoolgirls - and boys - selling their bodies to pay school fees or simply to feed their families. It is heartbreaking to see in Suva and now Lautoka the scores of young people waiting in the darker zones for custom. But the real tragedy is that there is no shortage of it. The law of supply and demand makes these services affordable and there are plenty of men willing to take advantage of these street kids.

Now the military has turned the searchlight on this seamier side of city life. Let's hope they will have more success than the police. To be fair to the police they have always been hampered by the rules of evidence and the law itself. It may well be obvious that a crime has taken place but providing proof is never easy in such cases that involve usually two people in a private act. The military, however, recognizes no such restraints. Those young people could be sent back to their villages (if they have any) or handed over to the caring agencies. But the police experience is that most will be back on the streets within a matter of weeks.

However, one very effective way to curb the sex trade would be to crack down on the buyers, not just the sellers. A "name and shame" approach to the people who keep these boys and girls on the streets would reduce if not stop it almost overnight. No doubt there would be some surprises - but if some unscrupulous men need to be dragged out of the shadows in order to end this national disgrace, then so be it. The army should spare no effort to put a stop to this cancer that is eating away at our cities. It takes two to commit this particular crime and it’s not only wrong but ineffective to punish just one.

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