21 Nov 2013

UN Women in PNG planning women-only buses in capital

6:08 pm on 21 November 2013

UN Women Papua New Guinea says it plans to introduce women-only buses in Port Moresby to better protect women from violence and sexual harassment, but not everyone is backing the idea.

The organisation recently conducted a series of focus groups and found more than half of the women surveyed felt unsafe at bus stops or on buses.

Amelia Langford filed this report.

UN Women PNG says the preliminary results of its survey reveal the most of the 124 women it asked had experienced some form of violence, including sexual harassment, while using the bus system. A spokeswoman, Julie Bukikun, says the project would be introduced early next year and run for six to 12 months before being reviewed.

"JULIE BUKIKUN: We'd like to introduce it, first of all, to at least address the safety issue for women and girls but in the long-run hopefully through an intervention like this create awareness of the problem within the city and start getting attention for other stakeholders to address this issue and hopefully a reduction of violence - not only against women but men and other groups as well."

Julie Bukikun says the UN doesn't pretend women-only buses will put a stop to violence towards women in Port Moresby. She describes the project as an intervention.

JULIE BUKIKUN: Of course, with everything that happens, you know, when we have an intervention you always have critics and skeptics coming up and saying different things so I won't be surprised if men come and say you know 'why are you doing this only for women? and i will have a good answer for them - I will say 'from the survey this is what is coming out of it and this is why we are having this intervention'.

Julie Bukikun says she really believes the buses will make a difference even on a small scale. She says she too has felt unsafe on buses in Port Moresby and experienced violence. The rollout of the bus project will be funded by the Australian National Committee for UN Women. But the national co-ordinator of the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, Ume Wainetti, says that funding could be better used.

UME WAINETTI: The answer I believe would be for them to really help us to advocate about the rights of women to people providing this service. Helping them to realise that they need to provide a safer environment in the transport system for women to do what they need to do.

Ume Wainetti says women-only buses could also be a target for crime. The police say they are working to create a stronger presence in the city, especially at the main bus stops, in order to prevent crime, including sexual harassment. But PNG Superintendent, Dominic Kakas, doesn't support the idea of women-only transport.

DOMINIC KAKAS: I don't think that should be an idea that should be encouraged, you know, as much as possible we've got to look at the root causes if there is abuse of our women folk - let's address the issue instead of segregating. The problem will always remain. If there was such a feeling - it will still be there.

Dominic Kakas also says the recent ban of betel nut sales and consumption in the city has reduced petty crime and made the bus stops and public transport much safer.