Tougher penalties for sexual offences proposed; Maewo gets connected via telemedicine


The Ministry of Justice has revealed some of the significantly tougher penalties likely to be prescribed for sexual offences. The Penal Code Act is being reviewed by Minister Ronald Warsal and his team including Justice DG Mark Bebe who are committed to better protecting women, girls and children not only from sexual offence but also from violence against them. DG Bebe firstly mentioned to The Independent‘s Evelyne Toa that the penalty for incest will be increased from 10 to 15 years and if the victim is under the age of 13 years there will be life imprisonment. Sexual intercourse with any juvenile (under 13) will mean life imprisonment. Unlawful intercourse with persons of either sex between 13 and 15 will see the maximum penalty increase from 5 to 15 years of imprisonment. Also being closely scrutinised by the team, with proposals to go to the Council of Ministers, is the offence of abduction. The heavier sentences are introduced following significant concern expressed by NGOs. (Independent)

Adopted children are more vulnerable to sexual assault, the Police have reported to the Daily Post. During this month the Family Protection Unit has reported a total of seven cases involving sexual abuse of underage children. The majority of victims were below 15 years of age and coming from broken homes. In most cases the mother separated from the father has taken care of the children who live with the mother’s new partner. (Daily Post)

Remote village service provision is also highlighted in an article from Naviso on the ‘big sea’ side of Maewo. Peace Corps’s Alexis Cullen has been bringing telemedicine to villagers of Naviso and nearby villages. The mountainous ridge in the centre of the island has to be crossed by sick people before getting to Kerepei on the west coast, and even then a ship journey to Lolowai on Ambae may then be necessary. There are no phones at Naviso. So with help from the Health Ministry, OGCIO, and TRR, the telemedicine network VITAL (short for Vanuatu Inter-island Telemedicine And Learning Network) is using cheap technology and the existing government broadband network to access specialist medical services. (Daily Post)

More discussion of the new locally-made documentary series The Last New Hebrideans in today’s Daily Post. The paper said it targets policy makers, and it surely does so through its concentration on the shortage of service provision in remote Santo communities beyond the reach of normal roads where rivers and swampy flood plains have to be negotiated even during El Niño years. Producer Slone Fred has been assisted in making the film by PACMAS, the Australian media assistance scheme. The documentary is available for purchase from filmmaker Slone Fred in Port Vila for Vt 3,500 and the money raised will go towards water tanks and pipes for people in the villages concerned. Slone Fred can be contacted on 7774175 or at