FEATURE: Breaking silence on PNG violence

Talkback radio is taking on the hidden topic of widespread domestic violence against women in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea's NBC is encouraging men to speak up against violence to women. [ABC]

Papua New Guinea's NBC is encouraging men to speak up against violence to women. [ABC]

VIDEO from Asia Pacific Focus

Violence at home: PNG's taboo topic

Created: 08/04/2012

Bernadette Nunn, for Asia Pacific Focus

Last Updated: Sun, 8 Apr 2012 16:55:00 +1000

Domestic violence has become a silent epidemic in Papua New Guinea. Two-thirds of all women in the country are thought to have been victims of some form of abuse.

Now a campaign is using talkback radio to tackle the taboo topic as a first step to ending the violence.

Charlie Tonga is a high-profile radio presenter on Papau New Guinea's national broadcaster, NBC radio.

CHARLIE TONGA: Yeah, I was once upon a time a violent man; used to be a guy full of jealousy. And I'd be raising hell when I saw my woman talking with another man and all that. I would question and then bash her. I would kind of like, you know, lose it. I remember one time bashing up, black eyes and all that.

(Speaking on radio) I am posing the question: what is women's position in society?

BERNADETTE NUNN (presenter): It's a very public confession but the broadcaster says he has changed and he wants other men to stand up and speak out against domestic violence.

CHARLIE TONGA: Violence against women is not the way to go. And, again, woman was created to be a helpmate, not a punching bag.

APOLOSI BOSE, PNG-AUSTRALIA LAW AND JUSTICE PARTNERSHIP: Form of sexual violence is quite endemic in Papua New Guinea. Our culture perpetuates violence through bride price for example, and just the way that women, in particular, are seen by society.

BERNADETTE NUNN: The limited data shows half of all women in coastal areas face domestic violence. In the highlands every woman is a target.

AMELIA SHAW, MEDIA FOR DEVELOPMENT: We're talking about getting beaten with steel pipes, getting chopped with machetes, gunshot woods, people getting set on fire, beaten to death.

BERNADETTE NUNN: It's a silent epidemic.

APOLOSI BOSE: Violence happens around the communities, people keep quiet about it, there's a lot fear about getting involved.

BERNADETTE NUNN: But now Papua New Guineans are speaking up.

An Australian Government initiative is mobilising the media to end violence against women by opening up the airwaves.

Twenty journalists attended training and the national broadcaster ran 30 hours of programming in three months.

Popular Australian rugby league stars Mal Meninga and Nathan Hindmarsh added their weight to the "use your voice" campaign.

VOICE OF MAL MENINGA (Radio announcement): So guys, take it from me - strong men don't bash women.

BERNADETTE NUNN: Talkback radio is relatively new to PNG, but callers across the country seize the chance to have their say.

UMA WAINETTI, FAMILY AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE ACTION COMMITTEE: Using the NBC has actually helped us to reach to those who are unable to read, because we do have a very serious literacy problem in the country.

DORAH KINAVAI, NBC BROADCASTER (speaking on radio): And we have a caller all the way from Alotau Town in the Milne Bay Province, and it's Florence.

FLORENCE: And I have actually witnessed a number of especially young mothers lose their babies or they themselves become die because of beatings . . .

DORAH KINAVAI: It's my role and my responsibility to actually educate the women and to raise more awareness.

BERNADETTE NUNN: It's a subject she knows too well.

DORAH KINAVAI: Having been a victim of domestic violence, it's nothing to hide, you know, it happens in nearly every home.

BERNADETTE NUNN: Sergeant Peter Aimm runs the Family Sexual Violence Unit at Waigani police station in Port Moresby.

SERGEANT PETER AIMM, FAMILY SEXUAL VIOLENCE UNIT: We have got very serious cases like men can shove his wife with a knife or other objects like iron, timber, and she suffer very, very serious injuries.

BERNADETTE NUNN: Police admit they used to turn domestic violence victims away.

PETER AIMM: Police, at the time, they used to say it's a family matter so you have to go back to a family level and then you solve the problem.

BERNADETTE NUNN: Only three of Port Moresby's nine police stations have family and sexual violence units, with just three in the 19 rural provinces. They're only staffed from eight til four with no night shift and an increasing work load.

PETER AIMM: Ten to 15 cases a day. It's too much for one or two person can handle the case.

BERNADETTE NUNN: With little support, many of the women live with the abuse for years.

UNIDENTIFIED ABUSE VICTIM: For five years I was married to a very abusive husband. So up until that time he has been physically and sexually abusing me. The worst one was just recently when he punched in me in my face, I found out he was having an affair and the woman is expecting, she's due next month.

BERNADETTE NUNN: She fled to Haus Ruth, one of the few places providing emergency accommodation, counselling or legal help.

ENID BARLONG, SENIOR COUNSELLOR, HAUS RUTH: Most times it's because of fear that they continue to live in such an abusive relationship. So when they eventually do get out for them it's a stepping stone for them and they also need a lot of encouragement to actually see the process through.

MELLIE TUKANA: He beat me up, he punched me and all that. I had a swollen face and I came here. It was very difficult but I had to do it, I didn't want want to stand it any more.

BERNADETTE NUNN: Apolosi Bose says there's a pattern of violence across the Pacific.

APOLOSI BOSE: There need to be more platforms like the 'Use Your Voice' use so that ordinary citizens can stand up and say, 'hang on a minute, this is not right.'

CHARLIE TONGA: So I'm hoping and praying that menfolk across PNG and the Pacific Islands and the whole world can stand up and make their voices here or use their voice against violence on our sisters, our mothers or our wives.

MELLIE TUKANA: It's very difficult you know. But this time we have to break the silence and come out.


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