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Crackdown on prostitution also leading to higher HIV rates

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 12, 2012) – Fiji soldiers are forcing sex workers in the town of Lautoka to strip, roll in mud and endure other forms of humiliation.

A new report released today, Sex Workers and HIV Prevention in Fiji – after the Fiji Crimes Decree 2009 – reveals that Fiji’s military is subjecting sex workers to serious human rights abuses.

One of the report’s authors, Karen McMillan, of the University of New South Wales, says the research is based on interviews with 25 sex workers in Lautoka, Suva, Labasa and Nadi between March and April.

She says soldiers patrol areas considered "hotspots" and round up the workers.

"Then after being ordered onto the back of a military truck they’re driven through town, taken to the base where the barracks are, there are sort of either big kind of pig pens or on military parade grounds where they’re often forced to strip at least partially – it’s mostly focused on humiliation and terrorization."

Karen McMillan says Lautoka sex workers also told her soldiers had made them duck walk, do squats in the mud and stand on one leg shouting repeatedly "I will never sell myself again".

[PIR editor’s note: McMillan’s research has also uncovered an increased risk of HIV infection following the crackdown on sex workers in Fiji. With economic issues looming for the country, more individuals are turning to prostitution, which McMillan’s report estimates to be at levels comparable to Thailand, per capita. In another report, McMillan and fellow author Heather Worth say that "sex work in Fiji is driven by economic factors and cannot be legislated away... Fiji’s new prostitution offences are simply bad laws, having given rise to abuse of human rights and damaged important HIV prevention capacities in the country."]

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