Domestic violence in PNG and the rise of civil society
On my first posting to Papua New Guinea (PNG) working for the Australian Government’s aid program, I visited Daru Hospital in Western Province.
In an isolated corner of the maternity ward sat a woman with a black eye, broken hand and a few missing teeth, breastfeeding her 12-month-old baby. Her child’s hand was in a cast and there was a large gash on her small face. The woman told me she had come to the ward because it was the only place she felt safe. She said if she returned home her husband would kill her and her baby would suffer. She pleaded for help. I tried everything I could think of but there were no local services in Daru for women escaping violent partners.
The plight of this young mother haunted me and even though I could not do anything for her, I wanted to help others. I soon discovered that it was hard to raise the sensitive issue of family and sexual violence, even though it affected most women and many men in PNG. At the time there were also only a few civil society organisations providing support services or advocating for change.
Fast forward almost 20 years and while there are still enormous challenges for those experiencing family and sexual violence, things have improved. Talking about it now is much easier. And importantly, it is not a donor-driven conversation. The Police Commissioner, the Commander of the PNG Defence Force, the Governor of National Capital District, and PNG private sector leaders, as well as leaders in civil society, the PNG public service and many others have stepped up to say, ‘enough is enough’. They want change for their families and communities.
These actions have led to new laws being passed, policies developed, training delivered, support services being established (albeit still inadequate) and …read more