PNG, where violence can seem like the norm for women
20 January 2014
THE NEW YORK TIMES
PAPUA NEW GUINEA, A DEVELOPING COUNTRY of seven million people with a growing market in the mining of natural resources, is one of the most violent places in the world for women, according to the United Nations.
In the country’s remote Highlands, the Australian government found that nearly every woman has experienced some form of physical violence, including sexual violence.
After decades of abuse from her husband, Agnes, who is now living in a safe house said: “I thought that that was normal for a woman to be beaten by her husband. I never thought it wasn’t right.”
The photographer Carey Wagner spent several weeks in this South Pacific island country documenting how a complex blend of traditional beliefs and lopsided gender dynamics have created a culture of violence in which women are particularly vulnerable.
“Men are being taught that this is the way that you should treat your wife, your sister or even your mother,” said Paulina Castillo, a psychologist affiliated with a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Tari that treats women suffering from bush knife wounds or sexual abuse.
Doctors and nurses at this remote clinic say they have never seen such regularly occurring violence outside of conflict zones.
While violent customs are hard to overcome, the country is taking small steps to bring gender violence under control. In September, Parliament passed a bill that makes all forms of domestic violence a crime punishable with fines and jail time.
“In our culture, men think that they are the bosses and they have the right to control the
woman,” said Lydia, who recently filed an order for protection against her husband. “I want women to know we have our own rights.”
Each time this issue arises (not only in Papua New Guinea, but in Australia and other 'Western' nations) all I hear about as a solution is education and empowerment for women.
Not to downplay these programs, they are vital, but why do we put the entire onus of change on to the victims and potential victims of these cowardly crimes?
Surely there needs to be a greater importance placed on educating men, especially young men and boys, to break the cycle of violence.
It is the men, not the women, that need to change.
Posted by: Ben Jackson | 22 January 2014 at 10:02 AM
I am Papua New Guinea male adult. I have never been violent or otherwise physically or otherwise abused my wife.
We have been married for past 30 years. My wife is my best friend. She and I raised a family together and went through a lot of difficult times together. We have educated children and now enjoy the warmth of our grand children.
Our children are not violent toward their spouses- not that we have witnessed. We have a lot of other couples and families who would be in the same boat as us.
I believe the teachings of Christ has a lot to do with modifying our behaviour. Certainly going to a church, committing ourselves to follow Christ's teachings of love, respect, submission and obedience has helped my family life.
Many couples in a traditional setting do not know how to sit down and discuss and solve their problems together by talking them through. Even in non-traditional settings like cities, couples and spouses do not take time to sit down and talk and listen to each other.
Jesus teaches the basic principles of conflict resolution. For example the bible talks about not letting the sun go down on your anger. That means all couples, defacto couples, boyfriends & girl friends cohabiting or otherwise should never let the sun go down on anger or disharmony.
This is a principle my wife and I have observed throughout our marriage. Before we sleep we discuss whatever the issue is, and take it before the Lord in prayer.
Too many people and couples are operating as individuals ( not as couples) and too many are operating on their egos.
Pride and ego often leads to misunderstanding, strife and violence.
It is my view that the Church needs to take an active role in educating people and coupkes for effective conflict resolution and victorious living.
That is my experience.
Posted by: Kelvin Natata | 20 January 2014 at 06:28 AM
Understand the necessity of therapy and support for victims. But how do those psychologists, counsellors and therapists approach men? Is there value in one on one with men, in a culture where this behaviour is their culture? I understand awareness, corrections, and prosecution, but is there benefit in male one on one, or is that just furthering the risk for those already helping? And who helps the helpers? How do they cope?
Posted by: Tammie McFarlane | 20 January 2014 at 05:44 AM