THE continuing level of domestic violence, abuse and sexual assault of women is truly a national disgrace, says Prime Minister Rear Admiral Voreqe Bainimarama.
While speaking in Nabouwalu, Bua, on Friday, Rear Admiral Bainimarama said the case of an alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old in Rakiraki was a reminder of the shocking incidences of rape in the country.
"This has got to stop," he said.
"I also want to use this opportunity to repeat an important message to Fijian men that I will keep repeating until we finally get a change in peoples' attitude.
"It is time for all of us to think long and hard about the treatment of women in our nation because the continuing level of domestic violence in Fiji, of abuse of women, of sexual assault, is shameful — truly a national disgrace."
He said a total of 739 sexual assault cases were before the courts — 262 of these cases against children.
"We knew the problem was bad but I was personally staggered to learn of these figures.
"We should all be ashamed of this.
"To think that for all our wonderful characteristics as a nation, we have this terribly dark side.
"The sexual exploitation of our women and children"
He said the days of any lenient attitude to raping, demeaning, mistreating and exploiting women were over.
"Through my government's initiatives, the police have adopted a policy of zero tolerance of all violence against women.
"Leaving aside these appalling statistics on sexual assault, I say again, if anyone hits or mistreats a woman in any way, they had better watch out because we are going to come down on them very hard and they will feel the full force of the law."