While the issue of gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea has hardly cropped up overnight, the number of high-profile locals calling for an end continues to grow.
Papua New Guinea was described as one of the most dangerous places to be a woman in the a 2017 Human Rights Watch report and although gender-based violence is the reality for 67 per cent of women in the nation, two high-profile cases have thrown the spotlight on the subject once more.
The first case to draw ire this year was the attack on rugby and boxing international Debbie Kaore, while the death of 19-year-old Jenelyn Kennedy a short time later heightened the outrage and increased calls for more to be done to protect the nation’s women.
Among those voices speaking out against gender-based violence are Papua New Guinea footballers Lucy Maino and David Muta.
Last month two-time gold medal winner Maino, who is also the current Miss Papua New Guinea, spoke at a protest march organised by the End The Silence campaign coordinators and youth advocate David Lawrence.
Close to 500 people joined the march which saw participants walk from City Hall to National Parliament where a petition was presented to Health Minister Ielta Wong.
“At its very core, violence against men and women stems from a profound lack of respect – a failure to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women.”
Maino called to attention the death of Ruby-Anne Laufa, Miss Papua New Guinea in 2012/13.
“In 2017 we lost someone close to our hearts to gender-based violence,” she said.
“She [Laufa] was beautiful, smart, articulate, intelligent, young. She was set to become a lawyer when her life was cut short. It breaks my heart knowing that EVERY DAY women in our country experience domestic violence. It breaks my heart even more that they feel they cannot get out of a toxic situation, or feel like they cannot seek help. Domestic violence is unacceptable. It’s not ‘normal’, it’s not part of our culture. We must change our attitudes and our mindset.”
These recent cases have also been a trigger for Hekari United captain Muta to resume a role he began in 2016 as an ambassador for the Oceania Football Confederation #ENDviolence awareness campaign.
To show support for the movement, Hekari United players donned black shirts and joined the Shine a Light protest against domestic violence.
“We joined the campaign to educate our brothers, uncles and fathers on the importance of respecting women.”
For Muta, being about to use his status as a role model to effect change and contribute to the movement to end violence against women is important.
“We’re role models and our efforts will contribute a great deal especially if we’re showing we are strongly against these actions.”
As a sportsperson and role model, Muta also has an ulterior motive for supporting a change in how the nation deals with gender-based violence.
“Hekari United carries the flag representing Papua New Guinea in the Pacific and even the world and as such, we’re concerned about the representation of the country and how other countries look at us when our country is being branded, or tops the region and even the world in domestic violence,” he explained.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, has said ‘enough is enough’ and released a statement in June condemning violence against women.
“This [gender-based violence] is not a Melanesian thing, this is not cultural, don’t use those excuses, this is real character we talking. Brothers and sons, leave that lady alone, exercise [restraint], don’t jeopardize your own future, your children’s future and your wife’s health and future.”
Change takes time, but with so many people now actively standing against gender-based violence, including the Prime Minister, it’s possible this time the message has finally got through.
As Maino puts it:
Additional reporting: Leo Jakanduo, PNGFA