OUR front page photograph of the battered body of young mother Jenelyn Kennedy on Friday drew comments from all over – both positive and negative.
The National published that photograph with consent of her family (both paternal and maternal). As violent as it was, how much longer do we have to wait before our gender-based violence system in dealing with such cases is corrected?
Workshops after workshops, campaigns after campaigns, foundations after foundations and still no change.
Every time cases like that are reported, all authorities come and condemn, condemn and condemn and then we forget.
Jenelyn’s case is a one fine example of loopholes in that system.
She is 19 years old (not even 21 yet) and a mother of two children (three-year-old and an infant).
She eloped with her partner in 2016, she was 15 then.
Her family lodged a complaint at the 6-Mile police station in 2016.
She and her partner turns up at the station and the police man said they could go and return the next day (bells should be ringing, here is a 15-year-old girl with a young man).
She was taken to the family support centre for help, her file was taken away.
Head of centre learnt of her death through the media. Went to safe houses, but access was given to her partner to take her away.
The system we have in PNG for managing gender-based violence (GBV) has failed many victims including Jenelyn.
We say it is time to focus getting the mechanics of that system working. We have the Family Protection Act and more specifically The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025.
The strategy has four key objectives:
- TO ensure that by 2025 the Government of PNG has a functioning GBV governance and institutional structure supporting the achievement of zero tolerance towards GBV, aligned with the PNG Development Plan, PNG Vision 2050 and with the Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030;
- TO standardise and institutionalise data collection, and facilitate ongoing in-depth research to support evidence based planning, budgeting and programming to end gender-based violence;
- TO ensure quality, continuity and sustainability of coordinated responses, referrals and service delivery for survivors of gender-based violence; and,
- TO scale-up, decentralise, and standardise inclusive quality initiatives and messaging for prevention of gender-based violence at all levels and in all sectors of society.
This GBV strategy was approved by the National Executive Council in 2016 and involves the establishment of a National Secretariat for GBV.
This secretariat has been given from 2016 to 2025 to establish a fully funded, resourced secretariat that provides co-ordination and oversight over the GBV agenda in all of PNG.
However, to date, a full secretariat has still not been setup. Why?
Some will say there are services for survivors of family and sexual violence with referral pathways already available – the police (Family Sexual Violence Unit), the health sector response, family support centre, village court safe houses, and legal support from public solicitors, public prosecutors and churches.
The question is how effective are these services? Jenelyn’s case shows the neglected survivors’ needs for safety, services and justice. Most victims often had no choice but to live with abusive partners.
Those who are today advocating for a change should demand from our leaders and especially the prime minister on why the GBV Secretariat establishment is taking so long?
Domestic violence will continue to be an issue unless there is a coordinated effort to address it.