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Victims of homophobic assault in Fiji too scared to go to police

Victims of homophobic assault in Fiji too scared to go to police

Two men in Fiji who were the victims of a homophobic assault are too scared to report the incident to police.

The alleged attack happened on Sunday at 1am in the town of Valelevu near the country’s capital Suva.

The men did not report the crime to police and did not want to be identified because they feared reprisals from their attackers.

‘While we were walking towards the road, two teenage boys approached us, smiling and made some sexually subjec­tive comments towards us,’ one of the men told The Fiji Sun.

‘We ignored them and continued to flag down a cab and all of a sudden one of them punched my friend.

‘They punched my friend really hard and when I was trying to save my friend, the same boy pushed me. I took a tumble and fell. My lips were cut and bleeding.’

LGBTI advocate and director Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj said ‘silence will mean fear and discrimination can flourish’.

‘We must not only condemn but we must actively act to stand up to these acts of discrimination and violence,’ he said.

‘This would mean that not only the Po­lice, not just the law enforcers, but society needs to be educated about these things.’

Even though Fiji’s Constitution protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, gay people still face a lot of stigma.

‘Fiji does not need that rubbish’

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama last year famously said all LGBTI people should go live in Iceland if they want marriage equality.

‘Fiji does not need that rubbish,’ he said at the time.

Raj argued because the Fiji Consti­tution has based strong provisions on sexual orientation and gender  as a means the country must ensure so­ciety is free from discrimination.

‘These communities can live with­out fear, without reprisal and re­crimination because they express a sexual value that is not shared by others,’ he said.

‘So we as a society must strongly condemn these acts of violence because violence begets violence. And we must extend the same kind of human dignity to them that oth­ers enjoy and they have the same constitutional rights as everybody else.

‘And that everywhere that people see, witness these acts of violence or where they see that instances that their sense of dignity has been diminished, we must stand up and report these matters to the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, report these matters to the Police.’

But opinion about whether the men should have reported the crime is divided.

One man on Facebook said he was friends with men and a fear of retaliation from their attackers was very real.

‘There are racial nuances to this case that aggravates their situation,’ he said.

‘Whilst I would personally report to police not everyone has the same context to make a choice. We should not judge or shame another person’s choice.’

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said it could not do much if people did not report the matter.

‘We would encourage them to come for­ward and report because that is the best way they could address the issue,’ she said.