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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.

August 13, 2013

New ChildFund report reveals shocking levels of violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea

Sydney, Australia, August 13, 2013: 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 on existing research as well as 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 – 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.

What ChildFund is doing

ChildFund has used the findings of its research to develop a new program that will provide better support and medical care for women and children who have been assaulted, and prevent violence over the long term. This community-based program includes:

PREVENTION: Working with men to understand, challenge and change violent attitudes and behaviours. Engaging schools to teach children conflict resolution skills, open communication techniques and the importance of respecting girls and women.

EDUCATION: Increasing awareness of the medical, counselling, legal and security services available to women and children. Communicating these messages via different media (paper, radio, text message and community engagement) and by influential agents (village leaders, churches, schools).

PROTECTION: Providing a mobile health clinic to cover 19 remote rural villages that do not currently have access to medical and support services. The clinic will be staffed with two specialist nurses to provide potentially life-saving medical assistance and two trained counsellors to provide support, referrals and information on survivor rights (including reporting incidents of violence and equipping them with medical certificates, if required). Services at a rural district hospital will also be improved, giving survivors of violence greater access to the specialised care they need.

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.”

Stop violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea:

Donate to ChildFund Australia’s appeal: www.childfund.org.au/appeal/png or call 1800 023 600

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’s 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’s Health Journalist of the Year, 2012. ChildFund Australia would also like to thank and recognise the important work being done by Haus Ruth, Family Support Centre, Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and Papua Hahine.