International medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says a lack of legal protection and safe houses is increasing the effect of violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea
- Domestic violence victims in PNG lack legal protections, safe houses, MSF says
- Victims are often forced to return to abusive homes
- There are only six domestic violence refuges in PNG; five are in Port Moresby
- MSF says more refuges are needed
The charity has collected two years of data from more than 3,000 patients at its two family support centre clinics in PNG, one in the capital Port Moresby and one in the remote highlands city of Tari.
It found most patients were female, most were abused by their partners and more than half the victims of sexual violence were children.
MSF nurse Aiofe Ni Mhurchu said most patients were forced to return to abusive homes because there were no support services or refuges available to them.
"They're at a loss really about what to do because they have nowhere to go," she said.
"They really feel trapped, they feel fearful for their lives, these women who keep coming back, and we see their injuries escalate with each visit."
The charity said its results were specific to its two clinics and could not be applied at a national level, but said the figures suggested family and sexual violence were "clearly widespread and destructive in Papua New Guinea".
It called on the PNG Government to open family support centres in every PNG province, to create more specialised police squads to deal with the problem and to implement child welfare laws passed last year.
Only six family violence refuges in PNG
MSF operations manager Christian Katzer said PNG also needed to open more refuges for family violence victims.
There are only six domestic violence refuges in PNG, five in Port Moresby and one in Lae.
The stats on violence
Source: Médecins Sans Frontières
- 94 per cent of victims were female
- 49 per cent of women patients had been abused by their partners
- 56 per cent of sexual violence victims were children, and 17 per cent of those were under five years old.
- 76 per cent of sexual violence victims knew the perpetrator
- 10 per cent of women and 38 per cent of children reported experiencing repeated sexual violence
"The survivors are coming back to us repeatedly so therefore we see a great need for safe havens for women and children to flee from the perpetrators," Dr Katzer said.
"In rural areas there is no chance for women and children to break that cycle of violence."
The houses only accommodate male children to the age of seven, meaning mothers with older children were often unable to use them as refuges.
MSF also called on the PNG Government to implement the new Lukautim Pikinini (Child Welfare) Act and regulations, which would establish an Office of Child and Family Services.
"What we see is a huge gap between laws and regulations on paper and their implementation and the first step forward would be to implement those and allow the survivors to actually file against their perpetrators," Dr Katzer said.