Village courts vow to protect children

Weekender

Carolyne Nimop sat at the last bench next to Giniat Upagi and Yane Pasen the peace officer and magistrate from Auroke ward.
Carolyne is a magistrate and one of 54 village court officials from the Amazon Bay Rural LLG in Central who attended a training on child protection for village courts officials at Loupom Island, last week.
As the training unfolded, Carolyne listened and took notes and later explained or translated some of the information to Giniat and Yane in the local Daga language.
“Giniat, Yane and I are from the Wopten One village court”, said Carolyne. “We walked about three days on bush tracks across several mountains before reaching the coastline, and traveled another 45 minutes by boat to Loupom Island to attend this training.”
“I am excited as this is my first training after I was appointed recently as a magistrate representing Nonou ward,” said Carolyne who is one of only four female magistrates in the dstrict.
This is also the first ever training conducted for the long service court officials from the Amazon Bay. Many of the participants have served their communities for over 20 years. They use the cultural norms and practices with the little knowledge they have on contemporary laws to address issues in their communities.
“We have handled many children’s cases but we apply the same principles and penalties for children and adults,” said Giniat.
“For instance, if a 16-year-old gives birth to a child, she stops going to school as she is no longer considered a child but a mother.
“With this training I have learnt that all age groups under the age of 18 are considered as children and are covered under the LukautimPikinini Act. Which means, her case will be addressed under the act and she has the right to continue her education and must be cared for as a child. This training has also taught us to address children’s issues in a different approach so that they are comfortable around us.”
This is one of six trainings being rolled out in Central by ChildFund PNG in partnership with the Department of Justice and Attorney General.
Nichodemus Mosoro, deputy secretary – Justice Administration from DJAG said, “Although we have customs in place, they are not that effective in telling us how to align ourselves to protect children. There is still abuse going on in the family unit, especially by those in positions of trust, so there must be laws in place to protect children.
“We have these new laws in place, the Family Protection Act, Lukautim Pikinini Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. But like all laws there must be implemented.
‘’Village court officials play a vital role in our rural areas. They are the ones that know about the cultural practices and norms of that particular locality and they are best equipped to deal with the children of a particular locality as well. But then again, they need to be trained on contemporary laws that we have, given the rise in the type of offences that a village courts are dealing with.”
ChildFund are implementing this training as part of a broader project aimed at strengthening the justice system to respond to child protection issues.
“Village courts are a critical partner for promoting internationally established equal rights and protections for women and children at the local level,” said Sally Beadle, team leader for Gender and Child Protection with ChildFund PNG.
“In this project the partner’s join hands to strengthening the capacity of the community justice system in Central to deal with cases involving women and children.
“It has been hugely rewarding to work with a range of village courts officials from Central province. Many of them have not set eyes on the Lukautim Pikinini Act until now. We are pleased to be working with DJAG to ensure that those working on the front line are aware of their roles and responsibilities under the new law,” Beadle added.
The project is funded by the European Union with a contribution from the Australian Aid Program.

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