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A public seminar, ‘Men’s perspectives on addressing family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea’, was held on Tuesday 12 November 12:30-1:30pm, at Hedley Bull Theatre 2.
Family is the basic foundation for social and economic development across the world, and particularly in Papua New Guinea (PNG) as it is a communal society. However, this foundation is often challenged by multiple issues of which family and sexual violence (FSV) is one. FSV is widespread in Lae, a large city in PNG, where the research this seminar is based upon was conducted. Among other negative impacts, FSV threatens the fundamentals of community and family.
In order to better understand and support policymaking that fosters healthy, safe and secure families, a collaborative (The ANU, PNG University of Technology, and University of PNG ) research was conducted from 2018 to 2019 to understand men’s and women’s perspectives on FSV in Lae. This study has explored the ability of families to address FSV in their lives, including a focus on how families keep their children in school when experiencing FSV. The PNG Government has identified FSV as a development priority and in recent years, with support from development partners, services to support families to deal with some of these impacts of FSV has improved. This has especially been the case in terms of police, case management and court support. Non-state support offered through churches, family and community networks remain valuable and the most immediate for families to access.
On 12 November, this seminar discussed research findings into the key differences between men’s and women’s perspectives of, and responses to, FSV. Men’s and women’s access and responses to recently established services and laws differ. For example, women refrain from going to the police because they are concerned about the violence getting worse, or losing income, or because they lack trust in the system to work. On the other hand, many men are not aware of the available FSV support services and their locations even within their own communities. Even when men do know about these services, they avoid seeking support from them for themselves or their partners because they feel that the law and services are designed in favor of women. This prevalent male attitude towards available FSV support services is read in the light of the recent and growing emphasis on the empowerment of women, girls and children through government policies and regulations. It is also discussed in light of one of the emerging findings from the research with men, which is that perceptions of power imbalance and adherence to cultural and social norms related to male dominance within the family are often at the root of FSV.
Joshua Goa is a Tutor at the University of Papua New Guinea Social Work Strand. Joshua holds a Graduate Certificate in Education (Academic Practice) at the James Cook University in Australia and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Social Work at University of Papua New Guinea.
Dunstan Lawihin has a Master of Social Work (by research) from Monash University, Australia, and is a Lecturer in Social Work and Coordinator of Field Education at the University of Papua New Guinea, with over 11 years of teaching and 7 years of research experience in social work and community development.