IN what has been termed as a breakthrough in investigations, police have uncovered a domestic human trafficking racket involving the sale of underaged girls for sex.
Confirming this in an interview yesterday, Fiji Police Force senior investigator at the Human Trafficking Unit Corporal Nischal Dass said the girls, aged between 12 and 17 years, were sold by relatives for prices ranging from $80 to $150 to perpetrators who are mostly older men.
"The predominant case that we are on the verge of finalising is a domestic trafficking case which involves minors. And the type of exploitation is sexual exploitation and this has happened here on Viti Levu and in one of the Western towns," Cpl Dass said.
He said the girls, who are school dropouts, had run away from their homes and lived with their relatives who arranged clients for them.
"These relatives are taking the girls and setting up clients for them for sexual intercourse and they are taking the money," he claimed.
"The girl does not get any part of the money. All she has to do is to eat and live with the relatives and the relatives are living on the earnings of this child. So the relatives are actually benefiting by selling this child."
He said their investigations revealed that older men paid for sex and younger girls were paid higher amounts.
Cpl Dass said the perpetrators were normally people looking for young girls for sex. He said the girls were taken to low cost hotels for a few hours.
"There is no timeframe. It has happened in the day time, in the evening depending on when the client is available to come or when the girl is available. She has no other client, she is sold.
"The clients are locals and of the major races in Fiji. They use the girls for two to three hours. They walk in, pay the receptionist for those hours, do their thing and walk out."
He said it took the unit one and half years to build a case. Cpl Dass said it was the responsibility of parents to keep track of the whereabouts of their children.
"They (parents) should be aware of which activities children are involved in and parents should also be aware of what the children possess."
For instance, he said if a child had an iPad, the parents should ask themselves whether they could afford it. He said offences of human trafficking begs a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Fiji Women's Crisis Centre executive director Shamima Ali said the findings of the investigations were shocking.
Ms Ali said while such things have been happening in the country, the law should come down hard on those involved.
She said the centre was aware of such cases and assured that help was available for victims.
"It is sad to know of these kinds of incidents. I hope the victims are sent to the right place and to experts for counselling," she said.