HRADC calls for review of statute of limitations

July 9, 2021 3:24 pm

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination office calls for a need to review the statute of limitations which puts a time bar on cases relating to sexual harassment.

Director Ashwin Raj made this call following a recent court ruling in which charges relating to an alleged sexual harassment case were dismissed.

This after the defence submitted, highlighting contravention of section 187(2) of the Crimes Act, which requires a complaint relating to a summary offence, which has a penalty of a maximum of 12 months or less, to be complained of, or a Police report lodged within 12 months from the date of the alleged offence.

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Raj says it is unfortunate that our laws currently have certain limitations with relation to sexual harassment.

He says it is time Fiji revisits limitations in relation to sexual harassment and violence.

He adds it is imperative to note the victim had sought assistance and advice from two institutions last year seeking their guidance but to no avail.

According to Raj, the victim had approached the Ministry of Employment in May 2020.

Her complaint was not filed by the ministry and she was advised that she could only lodge a complaint once she had left her job.

Raj says the victim had also approached the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) last August.

Documentary evidence procured by the Commission shows that the complainant had contacted the coordinator of the FWCC, four times via phone seeking an audience with her between 17 August and 11 September last year.

The victim had also emailed the FWCC her complaint but received no response and was dismissed on August 3rd last year.

Raj says the Commission is in possession of documentary evidence that shows that prior to her dismal, the complainant had raised alarm with her then employers about the continued mental torture she was suffering but no advice or help was given to her.

The victim had approached the HRADC in May this year and the Commission advised her on her rights available under the Fijian Constitution and the domestic laws.

Raj says there is a need to understand why victims of sexual violence do not come forward and what difficulties they face when powerful people are involved.

He highlights that some victims of sexual violence, require time to gain the courage to come forward.

Some do not even know what recourse and remedy they have available under our laws.

Therefore, Raj says there is a pressing need to revisit the statute of limitations and the need to take cognizance of the power differentials between victims and perpetrators.