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PNG: Violence against women 'ignored' but hope isn't lost, says media advocate

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Papua New Guinean media advocate Titi Gabi ... many cases of violence against women never become publicly known. Image: Titi Gabi Facebook

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Item: 8231

AUCKLAND: (Pacific Media Watch): Several stories where women are beaten up or tortured do not make the news sometimes because they are regarded as "normal", says Titi Gabi, co-chair of the Pacific Freedom Forum.

Her native Papua New Guinea is particularly severe.

According to Gabi, news stories involving violence against women often are not reported on at all:

One of the most recent ones was involving a flight attendant. This was shortly after New Year, or just before New Year. Now, she had a history of being beaten up by her husband, and eventually it became fatal. We heard later that she had some really bad head injuries, and that she was kept by the husband in the house. This is in Port Moresby. This happened in Port Moresby. For two to three weeks.

He panicked and rushed her to the hospital when she started to black out. You know, she just fade in and fade out. He got scared and took her to the hospital. She was put on life support, but eventually they had to switch it off because she was brain dead. Now, it turns out – allegedly – that he had pushed her out of a moving car. They had a fight, you know, in the car and he was driving. And he pushed her out and that’s how she got injured.

The husband instead claimed that the woman fell, but was not believed by the doctors after having examined her.

Although the full truth may never be known, it is likely that the husband’s abuse of his wife led to her death.

Cultural problem
This is far from the first time domestic violence in Papua New Guinea has been addressed in media.

Last November, the humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres described the situation as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

The organisation underlines that it is difficult to know exactly how big the problem is as many cases never become publicly known.

According to Gabi, violence against women is such a normal occurrence in Papua New Guinea, that many journalists do not see the need to report on it:

If this makes the media, there would be some rage, especially from women. You know, there are some good men out there who will be really angry with this. But it’s been the norm for Papua New Guineans to feel like it’s not our business – ‘it’s between a married couple and we shouldn’t get involved’.

We are predominately, you know, ‘men is the boss’ society kind of thing. So really what domestic violence is concerned, the general reaction here is that ‘oh, that’s their business. They’re a married couple, so we can’t barge into their issues’. And I think because most of the reporters come from that background, they are a little bit reluctant to go in. It’s sort of like invading the privacy of a married couple.

Human rights group Amnesty International has also expressed its concern over violence against women in Papua New Guinea.

Twenty-year-old Kepari Leniata was recently burned alive in the city of Mount Hagen after having been accused of using witchcraft to kill a young boy.

This prompted the organisation to demand a repeal of the Sorcery Act, while also emphasising that sorcery is but one of Papua New Guinea’s problems relating to violence against women.

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About the authors

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Daniel Drageset

PMW contributing editor 2013

Daniel Drageset is a Norwegian radio journalist who graduated with a Master in Communication Studies degree at AUT University.

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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