The fragile men of PNG who cannot tolerate women’s success
Girl with a Bagi

Gender equality in PNG: What a dispiriting conversation


THE conversation around the reservation of seats for women in PNG and gender equality more broadly has been most dispiriting.

Men – and, equally disappointingly, women - have been vehement in their opposition to the proposed reservation of seats, instead calling for election on merit.

Meritorious election presumes an equal playing field. It is glaringly obvious that the playing field is not equal in Papua New Guinea, both in parliament and outside it.

Even more disappointing is this prevailing view espoused by Jordan Dean and others that women "don't need equality - they need self-recognition”.

Unpacking such statements is almost a waste of our time and effort: at best, it is a vacuous throwaway line and, at worst, a subliminal statement of misogyny.

For as long as men and women like Jordan Dean continue to victim-blame women who have suffered GBV without holding the male perpetrators to account and judge women for the choices they make, we must continue to push for a re-orientation of our systems of government to recognise the importance of the representation of those who make up the other half of our population.

I for one don't "scream for equality", Jordan, but I don't suffer fools who are stupid enough to think basic biology has given them any form of superiority.

In many ways, My Walk to Equality has done what we hoped it would - opened and generated a conversation on the absolute necessity for PNG to work towards gender equality and, on that score, Philip Fitzpatrick has correctly highlighted the importance of reserved seats for women.

The business case for reserved seats is simple. Quotas lead to action on gender equality by requiring institutions and entities to implement gender inclusion in clear practical terms.

Norway is an outstanding example of the pro-active steps taken to engender gender equality across politics and industry.

My Walk to Equality CoverPapua New Guinea's collective failure to grasp the utility of this mechanism is breathtaking.

And, before I am reminded by someone that this concept is antithetical to Papua New Guinean "culture and tradition", we should all perhaps have recourse to our Constitution.

Therein a directive issue of the Constitutional Planning Committee called for "a fundamental re-orientation of our attitudes and the institutions of government...towards Papua New Guinean forms of participation, consultation and consensus, and a continuous renewal of the responsiveness of these institutions to the needs and attitudes of the people."

It is astounding that in 2017 we fail to grasp this basic direction to change given to us by people of half our collective education and exposure.

In the interim however, let's hope the continued development of indigenous Papua New Guinean women's literature does what literature is designed to do - challenge the status quo and illuminate the way forward.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Elvina Ogil

Garry - I am named after Muntika Poki, Rangel's older sister.

Muntika Amp Rangel happened to be my father's favourite aunt. Kongopa was my much loved great-grandmother. How incredible that you knew the women who came before me.

I completely agree with you, Western Highlands women had their own power.

Please email me when you can.

I have provided Fr Garry's address to Elvina - KJ

Garry Roche

Mundika Amp Elvina, while I think I understand the reasons for the disappointment and ‘dispiriting’ you express, I presume and hope that it will not deter you from continuing to advocate and work for genuine gender equality.

With regard to traditional cultural aspects several studies of Highlands societies acknowledge that traditional male domination was not as comprehensive as it may have appeared at first glance. The women had much influence in many areas of life.

I remember a Mundika Amp Rangel the daughter of Kongupa who in my opinion in her own quiet way was very influential.

At the same time we need to be aware that progress in gender equality is an ongoing battle in many countries. Indeed the churches also need to make progress in this area.

Michael Dom

Percentage Females vs Males:
Wage Income 31.2% 68.8%
Life Expectancy 56.7 Yrs 55.2 Yrs
Literate 40.3% 49.5%
School Enrollment 30.3% 37.3%
Seats in Parliament 0.0% 100.0%
Share of top jobs in management 11.6% 88.4%
Professional and technical 29.5% 70.5%

(UNDP 1995)

Mi no sekim data blong nau iet. Bai yumi mas askim Roy Trivedy, eh laka.

"Papua New Guinea is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, with the majority of women experiencing rape or assault in their lifetime and women facing systemic discrimination. While such acts have long been criminalized and domestic violence was specifically proscribed under the 2013 Family Protection Act (FPA), few perpetrators are brought to justice. Three years since the FPA was passed, it has not been implemented."

Excerpt from

I don't have more time to make a stronger case.

Philip Kai Morre

what women need is freedom and being independent to do anything. women are leading in many fields except politics, may be leave it for sometime when all women are united. right now women are not supporting each other, they are jealous of each other and even some women who stood for election are not role models.

Jordan Dean

Good points raised. I contribute to some of the policies on Women in Science, Pacific Women in Development, etc and I am all for equality.

I grew up in a home where my sister's were treated like VIP. Currently, we have laws protecting women's rights. UPNG and other universities enrol more females than male. Australian Awards give more scholarships to females than males. Now the 22 reserved seats.

Women have more opportunities than men so Don't see why our women keep screaming for equality. A lot of us PNG men respect our partners.

A bit out of context here but it's interesting to know what happened to the Leniata Legacy movement by PNG women in Australia. Did the victims family benefit or was it a scam?

To me, that's inequality in every sense of the word. Equality is about a level playing field. Not giving one sex opportunities on a golden plate.

Philip Fitzpatrick

And emus sit on the eggs and look after the kids when they are born Peter.

Not sure that would make much difference in humans.

We would just be arguing about equality for men rather than women.

Peter Kranz

Did you know that for sea horses and sea dragons it's the females that impregnate the males, who then go on to have the babies?

I've often thought that if this were so for humans, men would have very different attitudes.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The line that is pushed by Jordan Dean and others that women should enter parliament on merit rather than as 'reserved' members is easily discounted by a perusal of the candidates in the recent election and the results that followed.

Among the candidates were many talented women, some of them far superior to their male opponents. Yet they didn't win. Why was that? Because there is ingrained inequality in PNG that negates any ideas of a level playing field.

What I would say to Jordan is that, fine, when there is a level playing field let women compete on merit. In the meantime it is necessary to artificially level the field by introducing reserved seats.

As for Robin's suggestion that the women retreat to the kitchen and wait until the men come around I'd suggest that is a formula for inaction.

Faced with that scenario the men will never come round. Sometimes you have to force an issue and this is a case in point.

Michael Dom

Yeah! Elvina Ogil for parliament!

Eh, em bai brukim as blong ol liklik mangi wok long pilai mabol istap wantaim moni blong yumi olgeta.

Robin Lillicrapp

Depending on the strength of inherent bias against women holding power, the current impasse in political stability might act against, not for, desirable outcomes intended to show the ameliorating influence of feminine inclusion.
Perhaps it would be wiser to maintain a feminine bloc of critical acclaim and /or disparagement until the folly of inept or corrupt male politicians is even more clearly discerned.
When their desperation reaches critical mass, and the will is there for inclusion of sound feminine participation, the roadblocks typically constructed to deny access to gender inclusion will collapse under their own weight.
It must not be left to women to pick up pieces that have no basis of successful repair for that will only propagate further unjustified critical acclaim by males of female incapacity.
Rather, let it become the focus of PNG women to articulate the obvious at the kitchen table to foment learning and comprehension that translates at the ballot box.
That is probably where such bodies as the PNG writers have an important role in being able to identify and discern issues needing to be addressed before the the struggle for the elected office even begins.
Ting ting tasol.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)