A distressing step backward

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday January 7th, 2016

 IN only the second edition of the year, The National published a story of a brutal rape incident. 

And it occurred in the Port Moresby suburb of Morata.

In doing so we again affirm our determination to join the rest of society in speaking out on and against gender-based violence 

We in the media are often criticised for such publicity but the question is whether our silence would actually help at all in the grand scheme of things.  

The media is one avenue through which the country can know and appreciate the extent of the problem of violence against women and girls.

Over the past few years there has been huge public outcry against gender-based violence; one case that especially drew local and international condemnation was the burning of sorcery suspect Kepari Leniata in Mt Hagen in February 2013.

Over the past couple of years, the sustained campaign against gender-based violence, backed even by corporate citizens, may have had some positive outcomes. 

However, the New Year’s Eve incident at Morata shows we have still a long way to go in educating men in society to respect the other men in female bodies.

From reports, the attack on the four women and children in the house at Morata would have been pre-mediated as they were armed and were intent on inflicting physical injury on anyone that stood in their way.  

Waigani police, upon receiving a report on the attack, went to the scene but were attacked by the perpetrators.

We propose that police investigating the Morata incident should not rule out any underlying motive and not treat it as an act by a group of drunkards taking advantage of a situation to attack helpless women and children.

The attackers are also said to be of a particular ethnic group. 

To suggest that that the large group of drunkards had carried out the attack on the spur-of the-moment might be naive; rape has long been used as a weapon of war in conflicts all around the world and even in PNG tribal situations.

The attack has attracted the ire of United Nations.  UN Women country representative Dr Jeffrey Buchanan said such acts only happened in countries at war where rape was used as a form or revenge or punishment. 

Buchanan, while on holiday in New Zealand said further: “I can’t think of any other country other than in a war zone where such ritualistic and barbaric action would occur.”

Croatian author Slavenka Drakulic, who has written extensively about war crimes in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, commenting on the UN Security Council’s resolution to make rape a war crime said: “Finally, sexual violence is recognised as a weapon, and can be punished,” adding “We know now, as we knew even before the passage of this resolution, that rape is a kind of slow murder.” 

The attack, which angered the community at Morata, was also condemned by prominent woman leader Janet Sape.

And yesterday Sape led women, community leaders and relatives of the four rape victims to meet with Waigani police to see if a “holistic approach” could be taken in addressing the issue.

Other women leaders in Port Moresby who learnt about the incident through The National’s front page on Tuesday, gathered with the families and relatives of the four women victims at the Waigani police station yesterday to express their concern over the attack.

The terrible crime against the four women and the traumatised children can never be undone.

What we can do and seriously consider is, in the words of Buchanan, “ask as a nation how males are brought up to behave in such a way.”

Fathers especially, and older male members of families, need to lead the way in training young boys from an early age to develop respect for women and girls. 

For a start we must try harder to dismantle the mistaken belief in some PNG communities that a male child is superior and therefore deserves special treatment over a girl.

The Morata incident at the opening of the year is a distressing step back from the efforts made in the recent past to address gender-based violence. 

And it means that must not relent in our efforts to rid this evil.