Outrage in Fiji as rapist trains with rugby club while serving sentence

There's outrage in Fiji over apparent preferential treatment a convicted rapist and former rugby star is receiving from prison officials.

Amenoni Nasilasila was sentenced to eight years in September for the 2018 rape of a young woman.

Last week, the 26-year-old Olympic gold medallist was reportedly seen training with the Namosi rugby teams in Suva.

But women's rights groups say the preferential treatment of high-profile prisoners has to stop.

Shamima Ali, of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, said the fact that Nasilasila's non-parole period was six years also highlighted the complete disregard by the department to allow him to participate in training with the Prisons and Namosi rugby teams.

"Barely eight months into his sentence, he can go and play club rugby publicly, and he's glorified by the prisons services and so on," she said.

"Rape is a terrible crime in this country and we have high rates of rape, and they are very hidden. There's a huge conspiracy of silence around rape in Fiji and we believe up to only five percent of cases are reported."

Survey shows scale of domestic and sexual violence

According to a survey carried out by the crisis centre in 2011, 64 percent of women have experienced domestic violence - emotional, physical and sexual.

Sixteen percent of women surveyed also said their first sexual experience was before the age of 15 and it was forced.

"One in three women get raped in Fiji and up to five percent are ever reported," Ali said.

"The youngest child that was raped was four months old with the oldest 90 years old and everyone in between including people with disabilities."

She said no one is exempt.

"For us, the message being sent out here by the corrections service is that it's okay to commit such a crime with impunity, go to jail and yet you can get away with - you can go about your daily business.

"This also sends out the wrong message to victims, survivors and other women - one of discouragement from reporting and increasing the trauma of the survivors."

Ali said the situation reeked of disregard and disrespect to women, girls and children and seemed to show "that it doesn't matter, that this heinous crime committed against women is of little consequence".