PNG govt failing women: Human rights watch
Human Rights Watch have just released a report examining the extent of family violence in Papua New Guinea, and make recommendations of what should be done.
Human Rights Watch says women in Papua New Guinea are enduring brutal attacks from their partners while their government fails to protect them.
The country's lack of action is the subject of a report released today.
Despite the government passing the Family Protection Act in 2013, little has changed.
The Act gives Police more power and sets penalties of up to two years in prison.
But two years on, it's yet to be implemented and family violence is said to occur in two-thirds of homes.
The government says it needs to finish enabling regulations to implement the Act, even though this is not required by law.
Bridget Grace spoke with the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson.
Elaine Pearson: These were very harrowing stories that we would hear from women after women. They would show us their scars, they would describe how they'd been hacked with knives, in some cases they had to have bones reconstructed. In one case a woman told us how she'd gone to the Police seventeen times and yet still the Police had not arrested her husband. She actually had married her husband at a young age of fourteen but she said the violence got a lot worse when her husband took a second wife. And particularly what we found in PNG is that there are some harmful traditional practises which certainly contribute to family violence. Certainly the practise of polygamy which remains widespread and also the use of bride price, which tends to objectify women and while this is customary practise, it means that women often can't leave abusive relationships, because the custom dictates they need to pay back the bride price. So many women are unable to do that, so they feel forced to stay with their husbands.
Bridget Grace: What are the recommendations from the report?
EP: The PNG government should direct both funds and political will to ending impunity for family violence. So this means urging the Family Protection Act to be implemented, ensuring that Police, prosecutors and courts are aware of the Family Protection Act, and that they treat family violence as a crime. We're also asking that Police issue protection orders as a matter of course, rather than as a matter of last resort. Secondly we think that the PNG government should expand services for survivors of family violence, provide more shelters, ensure that access to legal aid, counselling and create a safety net for women. We also have a number of recommendations to donors because we recognise that donors have done a lot of good work in this area. And we think that issues of domestic violence should be raised both publicy and privately with the PNG government. And we think that donors should also benchmark the assistance to the PNG government on real progress in addressing family violence.
BG: How hopeful are you the report will achieve the recommendations?
EP: I mean we hope so. We haven't had a tremedous response from the PNG government. In the course of doing this research we tried to meet with various government officials responsible for this area of family violence, the Ministry of Social Affairs and so on. And we didn't actually have success in arranging those meetings. We also sent a list of questions to the PNG Prime Minister but we didn't have any response. So we're quite disappointed that the PNG government simply has not even responded to questions we have asked. We hope that the PNG government really looks at this report seriously and takes up some of the recommendations. There are clear recommendations for the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney-General, as well as clearly for the Police and Prime Minister himself. PNG has a booming economy, it's not an extremely poor country, it does have the funds in order to direct in this way, it's just the fact that they haven't been directed towards women and towards safe houses. So we think that much more could be done and we hope that this report will help put pressure on the government in order to provide some of those basic services for women.
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