SUVA, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Fiji has set up a new Sexual Crimes Division to focus more on the needs of child victims to replace the current Child Protection Division of the Director of the Office of Public Prosecutions (DOPP).
Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde said on Tuesday that a Victim and Witness Assistance Unit has been established to provide greater support and assistance to victims and vulnerable prosecution witnesses, according to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC).
The unit was set up to put more resources into resolving the difficulties faced in prosecuting child sexual offences, Guidelines on Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse Cases and Other Crimes against Children which will come into effect from Sept. 1, 2019.
Violence against women and children in Fiji is recognized to be a pervasive and serious national issue.
Fiji's rates of violence against women and children are among the very highest in the world.
According to The Fiji Women's Crisis Center (FWCC), 64 percent of women who have been in intimate relationships have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partner.
Pryde said that for a long time, there has been a need to focus more on the needs of victims within the criminal justice system, particularly child sexual assault victims.
The period between sexual crimes and the date of trial in Fiji High Court is from 18 months to three years when the needs of victims are often neglected, he said, adding that this has a pronounced effect on victims who suffer from mental health problems.
The establishment of the Victim and Witness Assistance Unit within a revamped Sexual Offences Division is part of the DOPP's longer-term strategy to deal Fiji's prosecuting sexual offences more effectively.
In 2018, Fiji have seen more than 700 cases of child abuse, including child negligence, physical and sexual abuse and child labor, according to the Child Services department.