How is the Family Protection


TODAY, Jacinta, (not her real name) is separated from her husband of 12 years, has scars on her body, the imprint of punches around her eyes and psychological trauma that still haunts her at night.
Five years ago in 2012, she was driven down to Napa Napa some kilometres outside of Port Moresby by her husband, and beaten almost to death. He broke the femur and tubular bones in one leg with
a wheel spanner, broke her skull open, punched her in the face until both her eyes were completely closed shut, and drove her almost to unconsciousness. He kept on telling her that he was going to kill
her and dump her body among the nearby mangroves.
But because she kept on reminding him of their four children and begging him not to do it for their sake, he drove her to the Port Moresby General Hospital instead.
However, too cowardly to own up, he reported her case as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
With her children, Jacinta eventually escaped from her husband to her parents and tried pursuing the matter in court. But, to this day, nothing has come about from that case. Long delays at the police prosecution
level have led to the matter going unattended. Jacinta’s husband is also a policeman. Jacinta’s story is only a pin drop in an ocean of domestic violence (DV) epidemic that has plagued PNG for as long as anyone can remember. It is a scourge that has crossed generational divides, ethnic boundaries and work classifications.
According to the PNG Law Reform Commission (Final Report on Domestic Violence, Report 14 of 1992), more than two-thirds of Papua New Guinean women have suffered violence at the hands of
their husbands or partners. Together with other human rights violations such as sexual violence (rape, child sexual abuse), assault,and sorcery-related killings Papua New Guinean women have been
ranked among the most abused women in the world outside of a conflict zone, says Doctors Without Borders.
“The women of PNG endure some of the most extreme levels of violence in the world,” adds a 2014 analysis by Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy. The report covered all forms of violence against women in PNG from DV to family sexual violence (FSV) to sorcery-related killings.
“They continue to be attacked with impunity despite their government’s promises of justice. The situation has been described as a humanitarian disaster yet still does
not receive the broader public attention it deserves, inside or outside PNG. It is also a significant obstacle to PNG’s development and prosperity.”
In the Nation’s Capital, whereDV is just as prevalent as in other parts of the country, work into addressing this serious problem is being hindered by an unresponsive
police machinery and a general culture of impunity. Last month’s revelations by the NCD Family Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) Secretariat that only two convictions have come about from the 414 cases
handled between 2016-2017 point to a very disturbing reality for victims of Domestic Violence in NCD in particular and PNG in general.
Ruth Kendino, Case Coordinator at the NCD FSVAC Secretariat, says there needs to be a total change in perspective for law enforcement in gender-based violence (GBV) as the secretariat’s work has revealed
that most GBV cases are not getting prosecuted because police are not putting any urgency into the matter, treating DV/GBV as “accepted behaviour”.
This ‘accepted behaviour’ culture is not just in the National Capital District, but is being experienced throughout the country; one which has led to the lack of the enforcement of the Family Protection Act (FPA), enacted in 2013 criminalising DV – four years ago.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a report out of its Sydney office on this problem, highlighting this as one of the biggest hindrances to the enforcement of the FPA. Heather Barr, senior researcher on women’s rights at HRW says:
“We heard the most harrowing stories from woman after woman. Women showed us their scars – from being hacked with knives, having bones reconstructed, having teeth punched out – and then described how they had to go back to the husbands who attacked them, because they had no other option.” HRW says its research had shown that “police and prosecutors rarely pursue criminal charges against perpetrators, even in the most serious cases” and “when police do get involved, they often seek to resolve the situation not by bringing charges, but instead by ‘counselling’ the attacker to stop violent abuse, and
send the woman home – even in cases of attempted murder and repeated rape, and even when the victim does not feel safe returning, does not want to reconcile, and asks for the attacker to be imprisoned.”
This issue of lack of support from police and prosecutors stems from Papua New Guinean men’s view on DV in general and the perpetrators view on DV in particular. Says Mary Jerry, board member
and case manager at Lifeline PNG:
“It is very, very difficult to get perpetrators to come in to see us for

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