Caption: Shamima Ali. File Photo.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) condemns the brutal beating of a group of students of Natabua High School who were allegedly tortured due to their sexual orientation.
“Such violent acts and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation should not be tolerated across all sectors of the community including places of learning,” said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC). “It is alleged that this act was carried out by senior prefects. If true, this shows that such brutality is being condoned by those in leadership positions in the school,” said Ali.
“We have seen throughout the years the brutal victimization of members of the transgendered community, and this is not the first time we have heard of senior prefects abusing students because of their perceived sexual orientation. We have received numerous reports in the past of incidents such as these occurring in other schools around the country and it is time that the State put in place school policies that forbid these kinds of acts by students, and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”
“We call on the Ministry for Education to investigate the incident that occurred at Natabua High School immediately and to use this case and other related incidences as an example to educate students, teachers and school officials to change the existing tolerance that people have for violence against members of minority groups. Teachers who suppress reports of such abuse should also be brought to task,” said Ali.
“According to the Child Welfare Amendment Decree, “teachers” have also been designated along with police officers, legal practitioners, and welfare officers as those individuals who have a legal and mandatory obligation to report child abuse to the Permanent Secretary for Social Welfare if such reports are brought to their attention. Failure to report such matters can result in a fine of $5000.00 being imposed on the individual. Given the fact that these students are under the age of 18, teachers including the school principal should be held accountable for failing to report the matter to the appropriate authorities. Teachers must be made aware of their responsibilities under the law and the legal repercussions for not complying with the Child Welfare Decree.”
“LGBTI rights are human rights and all human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for stigma, violence or discrimination in any form,” said Ali.
“The Constitution states under section 26 of the Bill of Rights that ‘a person must not be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly on the grounds of his or her … sexual orientation. We must realize that transgendered people often face extreme levels of prejudice and violence and to continue condoning this type of behaviour is a serious violation of the individual’s human rights, and it continues to perpetuate these crimes.”