Good news: Family protection laws passed in Papua New Guinea

On 18 September 2013, the Papua New Guinean Government passed the Family Protection Bill 2013 with a landslide 65-0 vote.

What's the good news?

The unanimous support for the bill signified strong political will to reduce the high rates of violence against women in the country and should be commended as a crucial first step to reducing violence against women.

The Family Protection Act:

  • criminalises domestic violence and gives legislative backing for interim protection orders
  • allows neighbors, relatives and children to report domestic violence
  • gives police the power to remove perpetrators from their homes to protect the victim.

This is essential to ensuring that women and children are not vulnerable to more violence and other human rights abuses if they experience violence in the home. Penalties for breach of the Act include fines and up to 2 years in prison.

How was it achieved?

This achievement can be attributed to the collective action of grassroots’ organisations and a multitude of women human rights defenders in PNG. No doubt this has also been spurred on by the National Haus Krai movement in March 2013 and the high profile visit of the UN Special Rapportuer on Violence Against Women in 2012.

'The passing of the Family Protection Act is a massive step in the right direction, however, much more needs to be done to end to the high rates of violence against women in PNG' - Mehere Maladina, Amnesty intern

What did Amnesty do?

Amnesty International has also supported the push towards legislative protection of women’s rights through various campaigns including:

What else needs to happen?

The passing of the Family Protection Act is a massive step in the right direction, however, much more needs to be done to end to the high rates of violence against women in PNG.

The legislation needs to be effectively implemented and government must adopt institutional and policy reforms to support the legislative framework.

Training

Training police personnel, governmental agencies and service providers on the issue of violence against women and what the Family Protection Act entails is essential to ensuring the proper implementation of the Act.

In particular, police need to take allegations of family violence seriously and be trained in investigating and laying charges claims of domestic violence.

Legal aid

Legal Aid should be made available to survivors of domestic violence so that they can pursue justice and access remedies under the Act.

Long term help

Long term measures including funding and establishment safe houses, medical centers and physiological care for victims of violence is essential.

Education

The government has a responsibility to educate the public that family violence is never acceptable and to provide information regarding the options and services available to those who have experienced violence.

The PNG government has provided legislative protection for victims of domestic violence, however, it is only through proper implementation and enforcement that we will start seeing positive change.

Amnesty International welcomes the legislative reform and looks forward to working with human rights defenders and members of the community to encourage an end to all forms of violence against women in PNG.

Mehere Maladina is an intern with Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher. She has actively worked on violence against women issues in Papua New Guinea. Through her social media site ‘Stop Domestic Violence in Papua New Guinea’, she aims to raise awareness and help change the perceptions of both men and women on the issue of domestic violence.

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