10 Responses

  1. Judy Atkinson
    Judy Atkinson March 27, 2013 at 8:21 am

    This is not just an issue of Lae City, but across PNG. We ran a workshop in 2009 at the request of the Kaugere community ( a settlement in Moresby), and while the original request was to focus on human rights in relationship to ‘family’ or domestic violence, we included issues of sexual violence, including violence against children. It was hard and painful for people to move from ‘domestic violence’ to the broader but more relevant issue of violence in all its forms within PNG society. Starting with the UN Dec. on the Rights of the Child, moving to Human Rights and then Indigenous Rights, we drew out law and order as a basic human (including child) right, and asked the group to develop and action plan and what they would do to start to build basic human rights in their community. We started with 19 men and 23 women (and 35 children) on the first day and finished the week with 29 men and 43 women. In other words, people were really interested and they came up with creative and powerful commitments to what they could do for themselves … because the law, as a protective force, does not reach into their community.

    1. Tess Newton Cain
      Tess Newton Cain March 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Hi Judy,

      This work certainly sounds interesting and it would be good to hear what the impacts were both in the immediate term and more long term.


    2. Paul Oates
      Paul Oates March 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Hi Judy,

      What were the details of the outcomes the people themselves came up with? Would or could they work elsewhere?

      ‘Workshops’ per se are great to air everyone’s views but must lead to practical solutions otherwise they just end up being self actualizing talk fests. Either that or they end up becoming opportunities for some to lecture others about what their audience is supposed to know.

      I do hope the workshop mentioned didn’t just become a flash in the pan and not end up being carried through to some workable and ongoing practical solutions?

      People need to see that any potential solution to this problem that can and will make an impact must be culturally acceptable and therefore able to be implemented by those affected.

      BTW – Isn’t Kaugere where Lydia and Peter Kailap are running their amazing children’s music school without any help from AusAID?

  2. Katy Southall
    Katy Southall March 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Tess

    Can you please elaborate on what a no-drop policy is?


    1. Tess Newton Cain
      Tess Newton Cain March 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Katy,

      In very simple terms (and it depends on what the legal framework is to some extent) it basically means that once an offence is taken on by the prosecuting authority (which is some way down the line from being reported to the police or referred to the prosecutor to determine if criminal proceedings should be initiated) it is continued by the prosecuting authority regardless of the wishes of the complainant either to continue the proceedings or to give evidence. It removes any prosecutorial discretion to discontinue the proceedings. Depending on how it combines with plea-bargaining arrangements it may lead to more trials. I hope this helps.


  3. Paul Oates
    Paul Oates March 24, 2013 at 11:15 am

    PNG is not alone in trying to come to grips with this sort of crime. An important issue is one of understanding the origins of why it happens and the perspective of those who are committing the crime.

    It reminds me of the report on an habitual thief who became absolutely livid when his own house was broken into and many of his own items stolen or destroyed. He couldn’t see the trail of heartache and sorrow he had left behind himself but could only focus on how indignant he alone felt.

    Would the husbands, fathers, brothers of the victims be prepared to act against those who break the law before they themselves were personally affected and aggrieved? The buck has to stop somewhere.

    The disruption of village family life and the dysfunctional metropolitan existence, where those who are either under employed or unemployed is a potential breeding ground for all sorts of social problems. Where the previous community constraints of the village are now either non-existent or weak, the efforts of those few who are trying to help the victims and potential victims are often quickly ameliorated.

    The essence of the issue is to look above the forest instead of trying to continually trip over the fallen trees. No government, public body or leader seems to be prepared to do this as they know they will instantly become bogged down in human emotions and issues of out of control hormones. It seems like everyone has a strong, reactive view of how to combat crimes against women after it happens but no one wants to be the first to be proactive and confront the main reasons behind it?

    Until enough people get together and start thinking holistically about this issue, nothing much will change. The metropolitan gender imbalance in PNG, ephemeral community values and controls often due to mixed cultural backgrounds and loyalties and an under-funded law enforcement service clearly aren’t helping but only exacerbating what is a common, underlying problem not just peculiar to PNG.

    Unfortunately, no political or community leader apparently wants to be the first to examine these issues in any detail.

  4. Marcus P
    Marcus P March 21, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Thanks Stephen and Kamalini for a somewhat disturbing, but enlightening blog. In the end the only thing that can make the PNG criminal justice system function in respect of holding sexual violence offenders to account is the collective will of millions of PNG’s fathers and husbands and brothers, standing alongside their women. It would seem then that the issue is partly, or mostly, normative, and it’s heartening that you’ve identified that there are brave people and organisations who are standing up to this scourge. It seems clear that resources are well spent supporting the efforts of these change-makers in PNG, because this is the source of the energy that will turn around for good criminal impunity to sexual violence.

    ‘Of the three sources of power the most important for sovereignty is the power over the thoughts that give trust. Violence can only be used negatively; money can only be used in two dimensions, giving and taking away. But knowledge and thoughts can transform things, move mountains and make ephemeral power appear permanent’ (Mulgan 2007).

  5. Tess Newton Cain
    Tess Newton Cain March 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for this post and comments so far, this is indeed a very important issue and as has been highlighted further research will be needed. I would raise a couple of points which are intended to amplify the issues rather than counter anything that is here. The first is that prosecution is a function of the state not the victim. In relation to criminal offences the state takes prosecutorial action (on behalf of society as a whole), with the victim being a witness for the prosecution. In cases of sexual violence prosecutors encounter the difficulty of the main witness often being unwilling to testify in court for a whole host of reasons (family/community pressure, reluctance to face the attacker, lack of appropriate court facilities to account for special circumstances, e.g where the victim is a child). Some jursidictions have sought to mitigate this by providing dedicated witness support workers (expensive) or instigating a no-drop policy within prosecution offices (can result in victims being designated as hostile witnesses by virtue of the adversarial system used by courts in common law countries). Another more pragmatic response (not examined here and possibly not applicable but it would be good to know) is for prosecutors to negotiate a guilty plea to a lesser charge to save the victim having to testify. The figures here are illustrative but it would be good to see how they compare with other PNG centres and/or other countries. There is a wider issue around the political economy of law, justice and policing which I will mention briefly here (and hopefully expand upon later): there are no votes in these things as they tend to be issues that would normally be part of a national rather than a local conversation. Whenever we talk about ‘service delivery’ or the lack thereof in rural PNG or elsewhere we talk about health, education and infrastructure but the concept of ‘law and justice’ as a service is not entrenched on either the supply or demand side.

  6. Satish Chand
    Satish Chand March 19, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Stephen and Kamalini – thanks for this informative blog. It provides some hard facts on the sad state of sexual violence in Lae city. The real heroes, as you rightly point out, are the members of the public plus the NGOs such as MSF who provide care and support to the victims. Your data shows the pathetic rates of conviction, but what you miss is the fact that a large number, something like half when I last looked at the statistics, of those sent to jail escape confinement. May be it is time the people of PNG stood up to crime. The Indians have shown us that this can be done.

  7. Mel Dunn
    Mel Dunn March 19, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Stephen, Kamalini

    Such an important conversation to bring to light, though always such a shame that violence continues.

    As a White Ribbon Ambassador, standing up for the ending of violence against women, we need to maintain the conversation, the advocacy and work together, men and women, to effect change such that violence against women is never excused or ignored – let alone committed.

    Mel Dunn

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