BY SAMIE WAIKORI
SEXUAL exploitation of local girls and women by logging personnel is a major issue faced in logging operations in Malaita province.
According to a report recently released by World Fish office in Auki, some girls lured for sex by foreigners have been reported to be as young as 12 years old.
The nature of the sexual encounters is considered exploitative, even if the girl has consented to the sex.
The report says the girls are said to be having sexual relationships in exchange for relatively small favours to her or her family.
Such favours may constitute money, a few iron sheets for roof, 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 that the short-term character of it all and the fact that no proper bride is paid affects the girl’s dignity.
As a result the report stated that there is an alarming growing number of children born from sexual encounters between local (underage) girls and foreign (predominantly Malaysian) logging staff.
Informants of the report consider this 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.
This also means that these children grow up without a father, and therefore they do not inherit primary land rights.
This is especially problematic for boys, while girls can gain access to land (albeit with secondary rights only) through their future husband.
One teacher interview during the course of developing the report said to have lost three female students to “log pond marriages” in a short period of time.
Other teachers have reported seeing some of their female students dropping out from school as a result of these pregnancies.
The report stated 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.
World Fish conducted report with a purpose to inform the Provincial Government of Malaita of the local impacts of logging on food security and general well-being and to support it in decision-making regarding logging.