Pitcairn Island is a British territory in the Pacific idealized as a paradise by many westerners. But around 20 inhabitants and former inhabitants of the small island, which has a population of only 44, are being charged with having sex with girls as young as five years old. Authorities believe sexual abuse has been occurring for years, but because there are no police on the island, communications are limited, and the nearest civilization is three days away and accessible only by sea, these girls have had no one to tell. The effect of the trial could be catastrophic for the island:

At present, there are just enough able-bodied men to man the two longboats, so the jailing of even one or two would have dire consequences. Negative publicity would stem the stream of gifts sent by outsiders, while the cruise ships to which islanders sell handicrafts would probably stop calling.

It’s tragic that after all these years a remote, relatively autonomous community is being destroyed. Is this a case of justice being done, or a case of control freaks trying to shut down yet another autonomous zone?

The Independent: The paradise that’s under a cloud

Update: See also Rape a ‘way of life’ on Pitcairn. In retrospect, it seems very naive of me to have doubted whether justice was being done here. This is the dark side of isolated autonomous zones.