19 Sep 2003

Bougainville rape victims speak out

10:33 am on 19 September 2003

Rape victims on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville during the civil war are now coming out to speak of their experiences.

Helen Hakena from Bougainville's Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency says a lot of women were raped at gun-point by men from both the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and Papua New Guinea security forces at the height of the crisis.

Ms Hakena says the women were forced to accept sexual acts with the combatants for fear of being killed or for the safety of their family, and subsequently many neglected to report the rapes because of social stigma.

She told a Women's Rights Conference that before the crisis, Bougainville women were assertive of their rights and their communities by forming village groups, which she says has been resurrected.

Ms Hakena says during the crisis women were sometimes attacked because they were related to political adversaries.