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Director: Drew Ambrose | Producer: Drew Ambrose
Focus Years: 2012 | Country: Qatar
Subject Tags: crime, gender, human rights, oceania, papua new guinea, race, violence
Quality Tags: Optimistic, Slow, Activating, Harmonizing
Family violence has reached epidemic levels in Papua New Guinea. Two out of three women experience domestic violence and 50 percent of women have experienced forced sex or gang rape in the South Pacific’s biggest country. In PNG’s Western Highlands provinces, 97% of women surveyed by an NGO said they had been attacked by male family members. From middle-class households in the capital, Port Moresby to villages where tribal law rules an estimated 1 million children live in volatile family environments. On a fact-finding mission to PNG in March, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women described the problem as a “pervasive phenomenon” and urged authorities to address traditional practices that are harmful to women. Any plea for justice usually falls on deaf ears because the concept of domestic violence does not exist in a country of 800 tribes and languages. Many men hurt women with tribal tools like bush knifes and axes, leaving them disfigured. It’s also very rare for family violence cases to be brought before the court. Most assailants are briefly kept in a police cell and then released. However, the country’s chief justice said violent acts against women and children account for half of the criminal workload in Papua New Guinea. The nation’s police force are ill-equipped and underskilled to deal with the problem; only 3 of the 9 main stations in Port Moresby have units dedicated to tackling family violence. There are few night patrols and police officers have been known to turn victims of domestic violence away saying the violence is a family matter. Fed up with the constant brutality, women have set up safe houses and daycare centers with the help of UNICEF to try and keep families safe. PNG’s government and international NGOs have also set up welfare and protection centers to provide refugee to thousands of battered women. They are welcomed initiatives but there’s a lack of human and financial resources. The UN recommends the programs need to be replicated in the country’s rural districts where women are most vulnerable. Domestic violence campaigners say more needs to be done to educate men in PNG. In a country with poor health, corruption, and economic indicators, men feel disenfranchised and often resort to joining raskol gangs and taking part in anti-social behavior like drinking. But it appears that until all communities within this tribal nation recognize the causes behind the violence the safety and dignity of women in the South Pacific will continue to be at risk. 101 East looks at the plight of Papua New Guinea’s women and asks what can be done to curb some of the worst rates of domestic violence in the world?

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