The National - SIXTY-eight percent or more than 2.3 million women in Papua New Guinea have experienced violence, Health Minister Michael Malabag said. One third, or 1.13 million, were subjected to rape and 17% of sexual abuse involved girls between the ages 13 and 14.
The staggering statistics were revealed by Malabag at the observation of the “1 Billion Rising” event at Port Moresby’s Jack Pidik Park. And suggestions were that the figures were even higher as numbers of were based on reported cases.
Grimmer still was Malabag’s comment that the abuses and violence against our women was not getting any better. Accused of sorcery killing, a 20-year-old woman, the mother of a baby girl, was tortured and burnt alive last week and two others were saved from a similar barbaric fate by quick police action.
These incidents highlighted some of the abuses faced in this country. Women gathered to join worldwide commemoration of the “1 Billion Rising” event yesterday, with the theme “Break the silence, make a statement”.
“Sixty eight percent of women in PNG have experienced one form of violence or another,” Malabag told the gathering. “One-third of women were subjected to rape and 17% of sexual abuse involves young girls between the ages of 13 and 14.
” Malabag said a recent study by the PNG Institute of Medical Research showed that 55% or 1.86 million of PNG women were victims of forced sex within marriage. “And I believe the situation has worsened. “We still have a long way to go in dealing with our attitude,” Malabag said.
He said lack of government attention and support had contributed to the current situation.
However, he condemned those who encouraged early marriage and prostitution, saying such acts reduced women’s dignity. He said the Constitution allowed for equal participation in development where women should not be overlooked.
Malabag also announced that more family support centres would be established throughout the country to cater for victims of abuse and violence.
“Gender issues cannot be separated from health issues. “Women are not just beaten but die because they do not have basic support centres – even in the city. “Instead of being reactive, we must be proactive. “Let us not wait for women to report the cases.”
Coinciding with Valentine’s Day, the occasion provided an opportunity for women and the public to call for an end to abuse and violence against women in PNG.
- The National
A jet plane landed at Port Moresby’s Jackson International Airport not many weeks back and created a stir.
The plane seemed to have been Pacific island hoping and there were some suggestions the persons aboard were of dubious character and that certain actions of the crew were suspicious.
Even the Customs and Immigration officials were baffled, as were Civil Aviation.
In the end, all turned out to be alright, that there was nothing sinister about the purpose of the flight or the actions of the crew, but the assurance had to come from high up the political ladder and, unfortunately, well after much had been made of the issue in the media.
PNG seems prone to these kinds of sudden visits, clandestine or otherwise that are shrouded in mystery which serve to raise more questions than they settle.
During the Somare era, there was the report about a certain multi-billionaire of Thai origin who flew in, again with little knowledge of people on the ground who should know. He reportedly toured parts of the country including Wewak and the hinterlands of East Sepik looking at prime agricultural and timberland before flying out again. The personality, like a snail, seemed to leave a silvery trail behind him and not all of it complimentary.
There was the other case of a certain Papua New Guinean politician and a lawyer getting mixed up with personages of Taiwanese origin, the latter of which ended up being indicted at Taiwanese criminal courts.
A former PNG prime minister ended up in Taiwan when he was officially meant to be in Australia where he proudly announced a US$1 billion deal which money was never heard of again in PNG.
A more recent meeting by PNG politicians and a person with a police record in another country is the celebrated case of Djoko Tjandra.
Tjandra entered the country, received political patronage from a number of senior politicians including their active soliciting for him to gain citizenship, all the while he was facing serious charges back in his home country – Indonesia.
Today the granting of that citizenship is in question and his passport is withheld pending a review of the processes involved in his attaining citizenship.
These incidents seem to follow a similar pattern. PNG officials – normally Customs and Immigrations – raise the alarm about the sudden unannounced arrival of persons or crafts on PNG shores. Then the all clear is sounded from political sources which seem to be well aware of the movements of these persons but who seem to have contempt for the Customs and Immigration laws and processes in place to protect PNG.
These incidents, and there are many more than the examples above, caused far more collateral damage for Papua New Guinea’s image here and abroad than imagined by those involved.
On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with a couple of politicians meeting with a couple of expatriate businessmen or influential people or even coming to their defence.
Indeed, it does not matter a wit whether or not these expatriates do in fact stand guilty of any wrongdoing.
The damage is already done at the first meeting or defence by PNG politicians of persons who clearly seem to flout PNG laws or who have past or current records elsewhere which are questionable.
This is the age of the internet. A person or entity carries its past with him. There are no secrets or they do not remain so for long.
Issues such as corruption are like a matter of perception. Association with personages who might have cases to answer or who are being pursued by authorities in their own land rubs off on our politicians and in the end upon our country.
A quite simple meeting by a senior politician with somebody with an Interpol record immediately raises eyebrows and when these kind of meetings seem to be repeated over a period of time, reasonable people will reasonably develop opinions that a shadowy agenda is being pursued. And that is all it takes, the perception, to drop PNG’s corruption ranking further down the ladder.
It behooves all our leaders to ensure that any investor who is invited into the country has a squeaky clean record and that all visits are carried out above board with all systems and clearance processes in the country adhered to.
Nobody, but nobody, should be seen to rise above our laws. Just the perception that this is happening is sufficient to damage PNG’s tattered image further.
Presenting what is known in United Nations as the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the 18th session of the Human Rights Council on July 11, 2011, Papua New Guinea declared that, like other countries, it was faced with human rights issues and challenges.
Its presentation, through ambassador Robert Aisi, considered that “most of those challenges could be attributed to the country’s current stage of development; cultural diversity, which although not an excuse, was a very distinct feature of the country; lack of basic health-care, education and other services; and inaccessibility to government services”.
PNG acknowledged that the government would take ownership in addressing human rights issues but also called for support from the wider international community such as the UN, the donor community, the private sector and civil society.
At the session, the country’s ambassador affirmed that the National Constitution “accorded all persons living in the country the basic rights and freedoms espoused by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and noted that PNG had “ratified most United Nations’ human rights conventions” but explained that “the delay in ratification of certain instruments should be attributed to the country’s lack of resources and capacity constraints”.
It was added that the country had put in place the necessary laws and institutional mechanisms to address human rights issues, but that it was experiencing an increase in human rights challenges, such as sorcery-related killings and the use of affordable mobile telephones services and access to internet to commit human rights violations.
And so there you have it. While all the laws, the systems and processes are in place, this country through its government and its various legal institutions continue to provide convenient excuses for some of the gross violations of human rights and downright simple, cold-blooded murder, many of which are preventable.
The murder of a mother of an eight-month-old baby who was “cooked” in front of a gathering public including school-aged children last week in Mt Hagen cannot be put down to “lack of resources or capacity constraints”.
Neither can it be put down to “the country’s current stage of development; cultural diversity, lack of basic health-care, education and other services; or inaccessibility to government services”.
It is plain and simple cold-blooded, premeditated murder in the first degree.
There is no other way to describe it. There is no excuse for it.
The laws of this country allow for trial in a court of law, that everybody is presumed innocent until convicted by the weight of evidence before court.
There is no law which prescribes what happened in broad daylight in Mt Hagen and many other areas right around the country.
Today, we carry another report that five men were put to death in the same kangaroo court situation in the Madang area.
So long as the government tolerates by its lack of decisive action, this kind of unmentionable torture killings, they will continue.
At that July 2011 meeting at the UN general assembly, Germany had asked how the PNG government would address a special rapporteur’s report on the question of torture, which also indicated that police beatings often reached the level of torture as defined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and reports of brutal torture and killings of women and girls, especially elderly women, accused of witchcraft.
We repeat the same question.
It is not enough to express outrage. We must go further to introduce laws and further to ensure they are enforced.
Policemen arrived too late to prevent the killing of the poor mother last week in Mt Hagen but there were scores of Papua New Guineans observing the scene unfolding as if it were a drama enacted for their entertainment.
And so long as that persists, the violence will also continue.
Almost as a testimony to the relaxed manner in which authorities approach this subject, the prime suspect in what we would describe as first degree murder, escaped from police custody.
And the police commander on the ground was uncertain enough to announce he was going to treat the matter as a murder case.