Keeping women and children in view: Gender based violence should be a key priority for the new government
- Written by Dr Fiona Hukula, Building Safer Communities Program Leader Dr Fiona Hukula, Building Safer Communities Program Leader
In his maiden speech, PNG’s Prime Minister, Honourable James Marape, stated that the economy will be the key priority for his Government. The Prime Minister reiterated the need to maximise local benefits from the extraction of the country’s natural resources.
It is important to note that a strong and resilient economy will no doubt have a positive impact on men, women and children. However, a prosperous, secure and equitable society requires continued and concerted effort in addressing fundamental problems that affects women and children. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a key issue which requires continued government attention.
All forms of violence against women and children such as rape, sexual assault, sorcery accusation related violence affects individuals, families and communities. Violence against women affects their mental and physical health; and mobility and productivity. For the case of children, violence in the home affects their education and general well-being.
Significant progress has been made in terms of instituting a response and raising awareness about violence against women, however, there is still much to be done. The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025 was endorsed in December 2016 by the cabinet that the Prime Minister, Honourable James Marape was part of. To date the National GBV Secretariat has not been set up.
At present the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) continues to champion the work in addressing FSV/GBV. A number of provinces have taken the initiative to address FSV and wider GBV issues through their provincial Family and Sexual Violence Action Committees.
Sorcery Accusation related violence continues to be an ongoing problem in certain provinces. The National Action Plan to address Sorcery Accusation and Related Violence was endorsed in 2015. The Department of Justice and Attorney General and the FSVAC provides leadership in rolling out the plan to selected provinces. Better coordination and assistance for survivors of sorcery accusation and related violence is needed as it can lead to extreme forms of violence, displacement, stigma and social isolation.
Key target areas for attention include:
- Government ownership of the GBV agenda through high level coordination at the national level.
- Adequate allocation of resources and increased support for referral pathways.
- A holistic approach towards addressing the needs of survivors, perpetrators and their families.
GBV will continue to be a major social problem in PNG and it is incumbent that the present government continues to support the strengthening of the referral pathways so that survivors of GBV can access timely medical, social and legal care. While there needs to be more research into the area of perpetrator programs, it is becoming evident that this is a gap in the provision of GBV services available in the country. A holistic, locally owned and driven response to GBV will hopefully see more perpetrators being held to account for their behaviour and a decrease in violence against women and children in PNG.