A man from Emae in his 50s has been taken into police custody for allegedly forcing several secondary school girls to engage in sexual activities, since they were in primary school.

He will be appearing before the Magistrate Court soon to face four charges — unlawful sexual intercourse without consent, act of indecency without consent, act of indecency with a young person and attempted act of indecency with a young person.

He was arrested after a complaint was filed with the Family Protection Unit by a member of the victim’s family in Port Vila on behalf of families on the island.

According to the complainant, these girls now in years 8 and 9 have been allegedly sexually abused several times at different places over the past years.

A statement from the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) Media on the man’s recent arrest conveyed that the police in their investigations went to the different places where the alleged sexual abuses happened.

“The man allegedly threatened to hurt the girls if they report him. The sexual abuses continue until it came to a point where they had to report him following serious alleged threats to hurt,” stressed the complainant.

The complainant said the man has is a father to several children and has committed a similar incident several years ago and was reported to the police.

“It frustrates me that these girls had to experience such abuses at a very young age. I’m concern that despite knowing the person is not a first time sex offender, community leaders did not take serious action to deal with him.

“As a parent and a child rights and protection activist, I’m frustrated that some people are still unable to absorb valuable information from the awareness’s on child’s rights and protection continued to be run by the government and stakeholders.

“These victims will suffer emotionally for a very long time. They are facing stigmatization which is negatively affecting their education.

“I’m strongly calling onto community leaders from Emae to speak out against sexual abuse against girls and women.

“Also, I’m appealing to the government and the SHEFA Provincial Government Council to provide a Police Post on Emae to enforce law and order there.

“Currently, there is no police presence on the island to reduce fear and distress for rape or sexual abuse treatments.

“I believe having police presence will make girls and women feel safe and protected.

“The Vanuatu Women’s Centre and other organisations should raise more awareness on child’s rights and protection and help strengthen pathways for communities to report abuses.”

In its statement, VPF Media also appealed to parents and community leaders such as chiefs, church pastors and elders to join hands with the police to report and stop unwanted sexual behaviors among children from occurring in communities.