FIVE farmers are in custody after being charged for allegedly raping a 19-year-old woman in the early hours of Friday.
The five appeared before Magistrate Mosese Naivalu at a special court sitting in Lautoka yesterday.
"The victim was drinking grog with the suspects before they forcefully grabbed her and had sexual intercourse without her consent," Police prosecutor Assistant Superintendent of Police Anil Prasad told the court.
"This is a serious offence and the suspects can be sentenced to life if found guilty," he said.
The suspects pleaded for bail reasoning they had to look after their farms and their dependents back in the village.
Magistrate Naivalu refused the plea and referred the case to the High Court for mention on February 7.
Meanwhile, police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said a total of 15 rape cases had been recorded so far this year.
"We are yet to complete the first month of 2013 and a worrying crime continues to rob our women and children of their freedom to feel safe," she said.
"The month of January has recorded over 15 cases of rape, two cases of attempted rape and defilement.
"Sexual offences are crimes that require specialist quick response from police. They have a long lasting effect on victims, their families and the community, and cross all socio-economic and cultural barriers."
Ms Naisoro said police was committed to ensuring perpetrators were quickly brought to justice, there was a dire need for men to understand and adopt the mentality that women and children should be respected and deserve to feel safe.
"We are requesting society as a whole to play a more pro-active role as the responsibility of keeping our women and children safe should be taken on board by every citizen."