Tighten family protection laws

Editorial

THE law does not give anyone the right to assault anyone and it does not excuse a man to assault his wife.
The law says when a man assaults a woman or vice versa, it is an offence under the Summary Offence Act or it can be a serious assault causing grievous bodily harm or wounding under the Criminal Code Act.
Before 2013, PNG’s laws did not include specific provisions on family violence.
Abuses committed within the family, including marital rape, were subject to prosecution if they violated existing criminal laws, but the police, prosecutors, and courts rarely invoked those laws to prosecute perpetrators of family violence.
Evidence from research shows that two in three women in PNG are victims of violence. This means that more than 80 per cent of women in PNG experience various forms of violence such as sexual (rape, sexual harassment, incest, etc.), physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, cohesive control, cultural or religious violence.
Research also shows that 67 per cent of PNG women suffer from domestic abuse alone.
When the police and courts did get involved, they typically addressed cases solely through mediation and compensation.
Advocates felt that a stronger and more specific law was needed to compel a tougher response from law enforcement.
After years of effort, in September 2013, Parliament passed the Family Protection Act.
The act represents a fundamental change in how the Government sees its responsibility to hold family violence perpetrators accountable and to keep victims safe.
The law seeks to end the cultural practice of resolving family violence cases exclusively through compensation, stating that paying compensation in accordance with custom is not a defence.
And the same can be said for provocation that it should never be accepted as defence for a crime. Regardless of the reasons for the offence, an offence has been committed and the accused should be dealt with according to which ever law or act it applies.
The reasons for the assault can only be taken into account to mitigate the punishment to be handed down.
There has been concerns that the law needs to be reviewed to take into account a real act by the woman as provocation would only condone the assault and violence against women.
Assault and violence against women is widespread and adjudicators should strictly apply the law as it is to sentence offenders as a way of deterrence.
The law should be effective and magistrates and adjudicators should not bend the law to accommodate for such violent actions. Yes, it is common knowledge that it is difficult for the man to accept his wife entering into the extra marital affairs with another man, but the law does not give the man the right to assault the woman.
The law does not excuse a man to assault a woman.
The appropriate cause of action is to file proceedings for adultery and subsequently dissolution of marriage.
The Family Protection Act should not be amended to accept adulterous activities of a woman as defence of provocation, but it can only be taken into consideration as a mitigating factor when handing down a ruling on sentence.
In fact we need to tighten up the law instead of relaxing it.

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