In 2021, sexual offences or offence against morality was still higher than than other offences. This has been the disturbing trend since 2012. Source: DOCS

Sexual crimes have continued to top the statistics of offences in Vanuatu for almost a decade, with over 50% offenders in the Correctional Centers throughout the country.

Data from the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) spanning the past nine years confirmed this alarming trend.

Each year since 2012, the DOCS has been undertaking a census survey on offenders in the Correctional Centers, as well as on community-based sentences, to help the Department assess how to address their offending behaviours, and rehabilitation needs.

Under the survey, these sexual offences are called offences against Morality. They range from: Unlawful Sexual Intercourse without Consent, Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with girl under care, Incest, Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with underage and Indecent Act or Act of Indecency.

There are different contributing factors for each case but mostly some major factors for sexual offenders is entitlement/sex entitlement, unable to control their sexual thoughts in an appropriate manner, alcohol, drugs and pornography. It is vital to note that when offenders do not have insight to their offending and keep denying and shifting blame to the victims, they always offend and re-offend.

The 2021 census shows that morality is the highest offence committed by detainees in Vanuatu (49%), and also the highest offence committed by community-based offenders (31%). In previous years, surveys were 49% to 50% and above.

A disturbing finding revealed from the 2021 survey is that more clergymen are committing sexual offences than before.

A sad truth that the survey disclosed was that the victims of these sexual offences are not strangers, but are known to the offender and within family and area.

Other alarming findings include; married offenders are also committing sexual offences, albeit they have spouses more than before, and also most common level of education for both detainees and community-based offenders was Year 6.

While Tanna and Malekula are the most common home island of offenders, most of them were residing on either Efate or Santo at the time of offending

According to the survey, 84% of detainees were actively engaged in formal employment and a further 88% of detainees are first time offenders, while 86% of offenders in the community are first timers.

In addition, 21 – 30 years old continues to be the main age group for offenders serving in the community and detainees

Interestingly, it was noted that offenders without children are getting fewer, compared to the last seven censuses while the number of offenders with more than two children is increasing.

The detainee population on 14 September 2021 was 287 persons, including six females.

The community-based offenders’ population on 14 September 2021 was 245 persons, including ten females.

Vanuatu’s rate of Imprisonment is the fourth lowest in the Pacific

The DOCS continues to work with the community and the criminal justice partners or stakeholders towards maintaining a safe, humane and just society.

But sexual offences are increasing, therefore there is a real need for more work to be done by everyone, at all levels.

The DOCS’ census survey only captured all cases passed through the Correctional system in the way of a pre-sentence report of an offender, as requested by the Supreme or Magistrate Court, or when an imprisonment sentence is imposed and registered in the Corrections database.

The DOCS echoes this as a national concern and calls on parents, Churches, chiefs and other community social agencies to continue to work together to address the rising sexual offending.