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Jessica and Molly grieve the death of their older sister Margaret, who was killed by her violent husband. They are now taking care of her young children. [Photo: Vlad Sokhin/ChildFund Australia]

August 12, 2013

New report into violence against women in PNG

ChildFund Australia today launched a report into family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG), revealing extreme levels of violence against women and children, and the need for programs that work with men to change prevailing social norms that allow such brutal and widespread violence to occur.

The report, Stop Violence Against Women and Children in Papua New Guinea, draws together existing research as well ChildFund’s own field research conducted in Rigo District, Central Province and features candid interviews with women and children who have suffered severe physical assault and sexual abuse. The report also includes interviews with men who are showing leadership in their community and standing with women in the fight for change.

While there is no official data on violence against women and children in PNG, studies indicate that violence occurs in more than two-thirds of families. Many researchers believe this is just the tip of the iceberg, a view supported by ChildFund’s research. Most women interviewed in Rigo District had experienced violence and said their children were often present when their partners were violent towards them.

Monica Richards, who manages Haus Ruth, Port Moresby’s main women’s shelter, says about 60 per cent of children who come to the refuge with their abused mothers have also been hurt. “Most [men], when they touch the women, they touch the children as well,” she says.

Alarmingly, children younger than 16 represent half the people who seek medical help after being raped. One in four is younger than 12 and one in 10 is under eight[1].

Among the key findings of ChildFund’s research:

  • In PNG women are raped, killed and maimed on a shocking scale. The brutality is severe, often involving bush knives, axes, burning, spearing and even biting.
  • PNG does not have enough national programs that work with men in order to change prevailing social norms that allow widespread and obvious violence.
  • With limited social services available in PNG, women often feel compelled to stay with violent men as they are the breadwinners.
  • Women need medical certificates to prosecute violent partners in court but cannot always afford or access them.
  • Education makes a difference ‰ÛÒ information, even a simple pamphlet, can make someone realise violence against women and children is wrong and there is a law to protect them.
  • Expensive and inadequate transport makes it extremely difficult for women in rural areas to access medical attention in Port Moresby. District hospitals and subdistrict health clinics are not able to provide survivors of rape with medical treatment, emergency contraception or post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV. They also lack safe, confidential spaces where women can be supported.
  • Women said police were often not interested in responding to violence against them and sometimes police were perpetrators of the violence.

Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, says: “This research reminds us that violence against women inevitably hurts children too. For many women, it is their children who are the driving force behind their determination to escape, as their children’s lives are also in danger.

“ChildFund is rolling out a new program in Papua New Guinea, which not only provides services to protect women and children, but will also work with men to change attitudes so that violence is seen as unacceptable. Our report shows that the attitudes and behaviours of some men have already positively shifted, so it is important that we partner with communities and strengthen local services to really bring about significant, long-term change.”

You can help stop violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea:

Download the report here.

Share our videos here and here.

Sign our petition here.

Join in the conversation online by using the hashtag: #stopviolencePNG

[1] Dame Carol Kidu, Transcript: Sex, Women and 21st Century in Papua New Guinea, 2012. Speech given at Australian National University to celebrate International Women‰Ûªs Day. Dame Carol Kidu http://www.pameladenoonlecture.net/the_pamela_denoon_lecture/pamela-denoon-lecture-2012.html

About Stop Violence Against Women and Children in Papua New Guinea Report

This report draws on qualitative field research and a literature review conducted by independent consultant Sarah Martin, commissioned by ChildFund Papua New Guinea. ChildFund PNG staff contributed significantly to this project. Special thanks to Manish Joshi, country director; Fiona Fandim, senior program officer; Margaret Gebai, supporter relations officer; and Namuel Nungwehim, procurement officer. The report also features interviews conducted in Papua New Guinea by Diana Mason, communications and marketing director, ChildFund Australia; Vlad Sokhin, documentary photographer; and Heather Wiseman, National Press Club of Australia‰Ûªs Health Journalist of the Year, 2012. ChildFund Australia would like to thank and recognise the important work being done by City Mission Haus Ruth, Family Support Centre, Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and Papua Hahine.