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But while this has had a negative effect on his nighttime fares, he is nevertheless happy about the law. It is not a view shared by everyone, though. Critics of the decree say that at best it is a stopgap measure and at worst it could increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and of violence against sex workers.
For sure, the new decree now targets people who hire sex workers and all those who benefit financially from the trade, such as brothel operators and pimps.
Even those living with sex workers are now liable under the new law, which took effect on Feb. Previously, this offence was a mere misdemeanor, with imprisonment and the possibility of corporal punishment for males for subsequent offenders. Previously, these fetched a two-year jail term, with or without corporal punishment. This used to be a misdemeanor too. Although statistics are hard to come by, a recent survey by the Fiji police yielded a tally of sex workers in Suva and in surrounding areas.
But this figure leaves out the foreigners in the local sex industry. Police records show that between and , only 11 cases of prostitution were brought to court. The low figure reflects how difficult it is to prove prostitution -- especially when it comes to foreign nationals, police say.
In February, the Fiji police conducted raids and arrested nine Chinese nationals with invalid travel documents. Among those caught were seven women who were engaged in sex work, officials say. Fiji police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri says that it is usually harder to arrest and charge foreign nationals as they have "fixed clients" and usually operate from inside nightclubs, bars, and private premises.