Training aims to bridge gap
A WORKSHOP to bridge the gap and create a healthier working relationship between the sex worker community and police was held recently in Suva.
The Strumphet Alliance Network sensitisation workshop was funded by the Red Umbrella Fund.
Project co-ordinator Sophie Radrodro said the meeting was aligned with the reform of police procedures and practices after Fiji’s March 2016 ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“Also to improve overall efficiency and effectiveness of the justice sector to deliver access to justice, which is a follow-up from our 2018 workshop with the police on the treatment of sex workers and understanding the human rights of sex workers,” Ms Radrodro said.
One of the key issues discussed was the rights of a sex worker when arrested or detained by police — particularly the first hour interview procedure and processes.
She said Fiji’s sex workers had encountered a lot of issues with this in the past.
“From crawling in muddy drains, swimming out to the sea, sprinting 10 metres and the list goes on.
“They have encountered public harassment, verbal abuse, taken to police stations and detained mostly on loitering and related scenarios.
“Their work has never come easy but lives are depending on the old profession to provide food on the table and ensuring daily expenses are met.”
She said sex workers in Fiji had longed for mutual community engagement by which their voices could be heard.
“Sex workers have been structurally violated in many ways from deprived with basic human rights to not being able to access condoms which could ensure the safety aspect of the work.”
She said the challenges were deep-rooted, making policy changes and mind changes impossible to tackle.