THREE students, one in Year 8 and the other two fifth formers, are among five people in police custody for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rakiraki.
And police officers are combing the Western Division for a 35-year-old Agriculture Department employee believed to be involved in the alleged sexual attack.
The incident has drawn the attention of women's advocacy groups with the head of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre calling for males in the country to take stock of their attitude and behaviour towards women and girls.
"We believe older males should be setting the standards for younger males but here, the leader is a fully-fledged adult male," said centre co-ordinator Shamima Ali. She commended Rakiraki police for their quick action and their commitment to not condone such acts.
Ms Ali also commended the mother and family of the victim for standing their ground and not accepting a traditional apology presented to them by the alleged perpetrators.
Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said the incident was alleged to have occurred on Monday night when the victim was returning home from her aunt's place.
"All efforts are being directed towards this because, as previously stated, the issue of curbing crimes against women and children is one of our main targets," she said.
"Three of the suspects are juveniles — the youngest of which is a Class 8 student while two are Form Five students.
"The others are aged 35, 21 and 19 years.It is alleged that two of the suspects had forcefully taken her from near the village church and led her to a small shed at a sugarcane field where the other four suspects had been waiting."
Ms Naisoro added that following the alleged rape, the victim informed her grandfather.
"An attempt to seek forgiveness by the suspects through a presentation of yaqona was refused by the victim's mother upon which a report was lodged at the Rakiraki Police Station.
"This is a serious case and investigators are currently questioning the suspects."