Domestic violence statistics hit home in PNG Highlands

IN NEW STATISTICS RELEASED by UN Women, it has been revealed that in the PNG Highlands, 100% of women have experienced some form of violence, with figures in Fiji just as shocking – one third of women who experience violence were aged under 16.
Domestic violence statistics hit home in PNG Highlands Domestic violence statistics hit home in PNG Highlands Domestic violence statistics hit home in PNG Highlands Domestic violence statistics hit home in PNG Highlands Domestic violence statistics hit home in PNG Highlands

Meanwhile in Vanuatu, 30 percent of women reported being sexually abused before the age of 15.

Julie McKay, the Australian National Director for UN Women, says that figures for violence against women continue to be extremely high across the world, but in the Pacific, they are amongst the highest on the planet.

"One in three women around the world experience violence, but in the Pacific it's one in two," she said.

"Put simply, the Pacific region is one of the most dangerous places to be born a girl."

Meanwhile a report released yesterday by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has stated that women and children in PNG endure ‘shockingly high levels of family and sexual violence', with the rates of abuse thought to be some of the worst outside active war zones.

Two out of every three survivors of intimate partner violence treated by MSF in Papua New Guinea had been injured by some kind of weapon, including machetes, bush knives and blunt instruments. Nine out of ten of the cases treated involved rape.

The report also says that the country is risking lives with ‘inaction on sexual violence', with 70 percent of the cases MSF sees in its clinic reported to be children, with over two thirds of that breakdown under 15. The organisation has called on PNG leaders and international supporters to fix the holes in the legislative system and services available.

"Inadequate or inappropriate responses from the country's hybrid system of formal and traditional justice, and the dysfunction of the protection system, are putting survivors' lives and health at risk," the report states.

It goes on to talk to the issue of exactly what the dysfunction equates to, such as a lack of safe houses. This forces women to return to their abusers simply to have a roof over their heads. MSF's head of mission in PNG, Angelika Herb, says that although there has been a great deal of progress made by government and local grassroots and international supporters, the gaps are telling. Safe houses will not take boys older than seven, for example, so mothers with older boys cannot take shelter there. She commented:

"Survivors reach family support centres… but there's a huge lack of safe havens and survivors are forced to go back to their communities and partners. We are receiving the same survivors back in the family support centre."

There have been some wins for women over the last decade; in the past 12 years, the number of female village magistrates rose from 10 to 900, for example. Last year, the government passed its Child Welfare (Lukautim Pikinini) Act, which allowed for the establishment of safe houses. But the statistics below show how far PNG has to go.

The report recorded data from more than 3,000 patients who travelled to clinics in Port Moresby and Tari in the Highlands over the past two years. In that time, MSF has performed almost 25,000 major and minor surgeries for violence-related injuries, and treated almost 28,000 survivors of violence.

And unfortunately, the MSF program has a shelf life.


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