May 15, 2013
Beginning yesterday through today is National Haus Krai day, a vigil against the endemic violence against women in PNG. A fact I’ve been made aware of through Facebook and postings showing up there – as well as the two links below.
PNG is a country full of unbelievable phenomenon – and it is often in the international spotlight for the negative reasons – I have purposefully tried to focus mostly on the positive. There is such a beauty to the country and in so many of the people but domestic violence is a very serious, very heartbreaking issue. There is no country or culture without problems.
If you spend any time in PNG the stories you will hear that at first sound unbelievable quickly become the norm but are no less horrifying or shocking for their commonality. A friend who was in PNG for 9 months wrote about this violence here, – where she describes her typical day as a doctor with the Medecin Sans Frontiere (MSF) (aka -Doctors Without Borders). As she mentions MSF posts are typically found in areas afflicted by violence of another sort but in PNG the domestic abuse is so high (believed to be at an astonishing 100% in some areas) that they have a group in Lae just for the victims of this type of violence. I remember talking with her and many of her colleagues and hearing about their work. During those conversations I would always think how fortunate I was to be teaching, to be seeing a more beautiful side to the people of PNG. What each of those volunteers saw on a daily basis I can’t even imagine. The cases that Nina mentions in that article aren’t even the worst. If that’s what you dealt with on a daily basis I can’t imagine how that might change your view on the country and even humanity.
Another visitor to PNG I met this past year was working on a photography project documenting domestic abuse in PNG (he also sited abuse rates at close to 99% in the Highlands). He talked about some of his subjects – one I’ll never forget was a seven year-old girl, who was taken by her drunk uncle and gang-raped for hours by him and his friends.
Another method of discriminating against women and furthering this abuse is the recent rise in Witch Hunt‘s practices against those believe to be practicing sorcery, also known as sanguma. The short video in the link is well worth the watch.
Sociologically speaking there are a number of factors that lead to this problem. On the up-side education, in its many forms, can dramatically reduce many of the factors – whether it’s raising boys to respect women, or communities to be proactive against violence, which is precisely the point of the National Haus Krai. Awareness is a tool, a starting point, for putting an end to the long line of victims whose scars come in too many forms.
Photo taken in Goroka, 2010 – women and children (all unknown) depicted live in the region where the rates are thought to be close to 99%.