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GEWE Committee reports to Parliament; calls for more personnel and funds urgently

Governor Powes Parkop, Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE), presented the Committee’s first report to Parliament on 5 October 2023. The Report is based on the public hearings held by the Committee in May and July 2023.

Committee Chair Gov Powes Parkop after tabling the Report in Parliament on 5 October 2023

The report highlights the alarming rates of gender-based violence (GBV) and sorcery accusation related violence across the country. At the hearings, the National Department of Health shared their health information data on people presenting for health services due to violence and stated: “This is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’; a catastrophic human rights violation alarming for a country not at war”. NDOH advised that, if not addressed, cases of violence could exceed more than 100,000 within only a few years, stressing already over-burdened health services and overloading the justice system.

During the presentation of the report in Parliament today, Committee Chairperson, Gov. Powes Parkop stressed that promoting women’s rights is a central value of the nation and is critical to reducing rates of violence. He stated: “Our Constitution aims to ensure that women can meaningfully participate in the development of our country. It envisions a society where women can engage without fear and seize every opportunity to exercise and fully enjoy their constitutional rights. This vision stands as a testament to our national commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment, which is integral to the future of our nation.”

According to the 2016-2018 Demographic and Health Survey, 56% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence in PNG while 28% have experienced sexual violence. One study also found that on average, almost 400 people are accused of sorcery each year, with 65 of these accusations resulting in the accused person being killed.

The Committee’s report focused not only on GBV and SARV, but also reviewed the current state of the institutions and policies responsible for driving the national GEWE agenda. The Report underscores the need for structural changes at the highest levels to address the issues it identified. These reforms include: strengthening the institutions responsible for driving the gender equality agenda and addressing GBV, including by fixing the moribund Department for Community Development and Religion; urgently addressing workforce shortages across the country, in particular by employing more health staff and police officers; providing substantially more funding to civil society organisations to provide GBV and SARV crisis support services; and investing heavily in violence prevention programmes to build a culture of zero tolerance for violence, especially amongst young people.

The report provides a set of 29 recommendations for urgent consideration by the National Government, Provincial Administrations and Members of Parliament. The Committee will use its 5-year term to track progress in implementing those recommendations. By implementing these recommendations, the Government and stakeholders across the country can create a safer and more equitable society for all.

The entire report may be downloaded from here:

The Committee acknowledges the support provided to their work by the Australian Government funded UNDP Parliamentary Strengthening Project. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been providing technical support to the new Parliamentary Committee on GEWE as part of its Parliamentary Strengthening Project, which is funded by the Australian Government. This support aims to support the National Parliament, its members and its Committees to engage in more effective law-making, oversight and representation in the discharge of their constitutional mandates.

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