Private: Voices from Jiwaka: Talking about violence against women in PNG

September 16, 2014

Nearly 100% of women in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea face partner violence. That’s a staggering statistic, and hard to comprehend. IWDA’s partner Voice for Change recently surveyed over 1000 women and men in the Highlands province of Jiwaka to understand their experiences of violence against women. Through their personal viewpoints, we can gain a better understanding of some of the realities behind that 100% statistic.

Overwork as a form of slavery

A. lives with her two children in town. Since marriage, life was never the same. Her husband doesn’t do any single thing. She works and works and says that old age is catching up too fast because of all the hard work. She does all the males’ chores as well. All her husband does is sleep all day and gambles in the night. She has reached a point in her life where she wants to leave but there is no place for her at her homeland and also, she feels sorry for her two kids. She just wished there could be some kind of penalty for laziness in the community. It’s so inhuman at times.

[Men] do this because they think that they can feel important when they are in total control. Their expectations are way up high, thinking that because they paid a bride price, a woman is bought so that she can do everything at home.
– Kindeng, young men

In our district, most men here take advantage of their title as the head of the family thus do act as superiors and expect woman to carry out all family chores both indoors and outdoors. Our community even accepts it as a normal practise.
– Karap, mature men

Men are to be blamed for the slavery issue. It is total ignorance.
– Kindeng, young women

Wife beating

Wife beating often results from husband wanting money from wife. Wife beating also results when the husband wants to have sex with the wife and she refuses. The husband does not understand that unlike him, the wife is exhausted from a busy day at work carrying whatever task – even what he should have done.
– Karap, young men

He will ask me for money when he has not money and beats me up very badly to get money. One day he came over to me and asked for money but when I said I had no money, he got up and beat me very badly. Nearly he killed me.
– A woman

The woman and children suffer. Children’s education is affected as well. The woman sometimes commits suicide.
– Karpa, young women

Domestic violence – it’s like everyday activities.
– Karpa, young men

Bride price

Bride price nowadays where we live is getting higher and higher. Women that are educated are being bought at a very high price. The higher the price, the higher the problem… It puts a mindset in the community thinking that once a bride price is paid, [the man] owns the woman.
– Sipil, mature men

[Men] all treat girl children as their money making objects.
– Kudjip, young men

When men cause these violences to happen in the family, women sometimes think about leaving their husbands but bride price is already paid and they suffer slowly and stay.
– Korkor, young women

In our tradition or customs we believe that when we buy bride price we have every right to do anything we want to.
– Karpa, mature men

In the midst of this violence, support for the front-line defenders of women and girls is crucial. This year IWDA and our partner Jiwaka Women Human Rights Defenders held trauma counselling training for 27 women. The training focussed on self-care and practical counselling skills for these women, who put their own lives at risk defending other women in their communities.


Women's Human Rights Defenders in PNG
Front-line defenders of women’s human rights in PNG came together for a training on trauma counselling skills. Photo: Joanna Hayter