BY LYNTON AARON FILIA
SEXUAL exploitation of girls and women is a major concern voiced by men and women in Malaita province, according to report.
A research conducted in November 2016 – November 2017 by WorldFish reveals that sexual exploitation of girls and women is increasing in Malaita province, particularly in West Are’are.
The survey is based on qualitative interviews conducted with 172 people (84 men and 88 women) in 23 villages in Are’are, Lau and Langalanga.
Thirty-eight informants from all areas visited spontaneously, mentioned this issue.
Many informants brought up the growing number of children born from sexual encounters between local (underage) girls and foreign (predominantly Malaysian) logging staff.
One woman from West Are’are comments, “Here we have around five ‘baby Wakus, but the fathers are already gone. One of my cousins is currently six months pregnant from a Waku too. She is only around 15 years old. She was in class four when she got pregnant.”
Following such concern, the informants consider such issue as highly problematic for several reasons.
First, in almost all cases the logging staff leave the girl with the child after the logging operation is finished and do not take responsibility for either the girl or the child(ren).
Thus, she and her family are left with the burden of looking after the child afterward, and as children grow up without a father, they do not inherit primary land rights.
From the report it highlight that such is a problematic especially for boys, while girls can gain access to land (albeit with secondary rights only) through their future husband.
Another point is girls concerned are often underage. Some have been reported to be as young as 12.
Third, these relationships run very strongly against cultural norms.
No proper bride price is paid, and thus compensation payments are requested for violating rules surrounding marriage and courtship.
The nature of the sexual encounters is considered exploitative, even if the girl has consented to the sex.
Girls are said to be having sexual relationships in exchange for relatively small favours to her and/or her family.
Such favours may constitute money, a few iron sheets for the roof, and a bag of rice, a carton of noodles or operating a logging machine to bring the family’s logs down to the log pond for milling.
While some parents are allegedly stimulating these arrangements, the general sentiment is short-term character of all and the fact that no proper bride price is paid affects the girl’s dignity.
As a result many mothers do not allow their daughters to visit logging camps and log ponds, and in some operations women are discouraged from riding on logging trucks.
Parents say they have a hard time ensuring their daughters’ safety, as they may have to pass by logging camps and log ponds to go to the gardens or even to school.
With the plight of the issue, chiefs and parent are working with security officers on the log pond, but they don’t pay attention to the girls who are roaming around or walking up to the logging camp.
Reason is officers are paid to protect machines, so nobody protects the girls.
Many communities have included in their agreements with the logging companies a prohibition for logging staff to maintain relationships with local girls.
Breaking such agreements will results in sending off of staff members and payment of compensation, but “nobody thinks heavily about it, the report shows.
However, the theory did not work due to chiefs and parents are weak.