The death of a senior Papua New Guinea journalist and subsequent allegations that she was a victim of domestic violence has again shone a spotlight on an issue that is rife in the Pacific region.
- Rosalyn Albaniel Evara's aunt says she was victim of domestic violence
- The journalist's death sparked uproar on social media
- Coroner expected to hand down findings in November
Rosalyn Albaniel Evara, the business editor of the national newspaper Post Courier, died suddenly on October 14.
At her funeral this week, her aunt Mary Albaniel delivered a eulogy during in which she said that her niece had been a victim of domestic violence.
Ms Albaniel's revelations, which included showing graphic images of trauma and bruising to her niece's torso and neck, sparked outrage on social media.
The bulk of the criticism was directed at her employer, which was accused of ignoring her plight, then burying news of her death deep in the newspaper.
A former Post Courier editor, Alexander Rheeney, said he was disgusted at the lack of editorial prominence, particularly given another daily newspaper, The National, had reported Ms Evara's death on page one.
The Post Courier said in an editorial that their colleague was a "completely private person, never one to talk about her personal experiences, life, marriage or what goes beyond the limits of the workplace".
It accused Ms Evara's relatives of "hijacking" her funeral by showing the photos, and indicated "clear and precise" information about the manner of her death was needed before accusations of gender-based violence could be made.
The editorial also highlighted its record of advocating for victims of gender-based violence.
But Mr Rheeney told the ABC's Pacific Beat program such claims were irrelevant when they could not defend their own employee who lived on the company's premises.
"I am somewhat gobsmacked that the violence that could have been perpetrated against the late Rosalyn escaped scrutiny, because I am sure someone would have seen it or heard about it one way or another," he said.
Family and domestic violence support services:
"They had an obligation to keep track of their employees' welfare … and I just think they let Rosalyn down big time."
His assertions are supported by a close friend of Ms Evara, Priscilla Maigu, who said people knew what she was going through but were too scared to do anything about it.
"Everyone just watched daily violence, daily beatings that she sustained," she said.
"I don't know how and why they didn't tend to help her."
Community urged to take action against domestic violence
The uproar after the domestic violence claims made at Ms Evara's funeral has led to a police investigation and a belated autopsy.
Authorities have made no suggestion that her death was directly caused by domestic violence.
The coroner was expected to hand down his findings in early November.
Domestic violence across the Pacific
- Nearly two out of every three women aged 15 to 49 experienced violence from their current or former partner and about 18 per cent of women experienced non-partner violence
- Source: Secretariat of the Pacific Community
- Three out of five women had been physically and sexually abused by their husband or partner
- Source: Vanuatu Women's Centre and National Statistics Office
- Sixty four per cent of women who had ever been in an intimate relationship experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a husband or intimate partner in their lifetime
- Every day 43 women are injured, one is permanently disabled, and 71 lose consciousness
- Source: Fiji Women's Crisis Centre
Papua New Guinea
- There is a lack of accurate national statistics on the rate of gender-based violence in PNG
- Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Medicins Sans Frontieres have detailed "shockingly high" rates of family and sexual violence
- Source: MSF and HRW
The case has also opened the door for a societal change in Papua New Guinea in how it deals with gender-based violence, said Papua New Guinea Media Council president Neville Choi.
"It's time that people stopped turning a blind eye and the media has a very important role to play to make sure that more and more people speak out about what's happening behind closed doors right now," Mr Choi said.
He told Pacific Beat it is still a taboo topic, particularly among professional women.
"Most of them don't say anything about it and I think this is where we [the media] can play a stronger role in this," he said.
"Yes there is a lot being done about it, but the stigma and the fear that's still there has to be broken."
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said his Government had enacted laws to prevent violence against women, but could not do more without active community support.
In a statement, Mr O'Neill called on community and church leaders to stand up against violence towards women, and for men to protect their mothers, daughters and sisters.
"A man is a coward if he thinks it is ok to hit a woman, these abusers would not have the courage to hit a man who was bigger than they are, but they hit a woman who is smaller," the Prime Minister said.
Ms Maigu is planning to set up a foundation in honour of her friend, which would provide support to victims of domestic violence.
"Other women are also in such situations all over the country, you know, they're going through situations like this and their employers are not doing anything," she said.
"Once I get the foundation up and going, I want to assure all women whether you're in the workforce or you're a housewife or in the village, this foundation is for you.
"Come out and talk about your issue, and we will help you."
The national counselling helpline's number for callers within Papua New Guinea is 715-08000.