PORT MORESBY 25 February 2022: During the parliamentary session held yesterday, a major step forward was taken by law-makers with the passage amendments to the Criminal Code which sought to introduce new provisions to criminalise sorcery accusation related violence (SARV) and the glasman and glasmeri who are often involved in such cases.
The Bill was introduced by Governor Bird, who has long been a champion for women’s rights and is also the Deputy Chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV. When introducing the Bill, Governor Bird stated: “A large number of SARV cases use glasman or meri to accuse women and girls of violence, who are subjected to extreme acts of violence, torture and rape, and many are eventually killed. In most cases, glasman and meri receive a payment for their services, so these acts are motivated by greed.
He stated: “Ending this barbaric practice will require a number of bold actions – these amendments are the first of those actions and is aimed at individuals who propagate SARV and inappropriately benefit from the torture and murder of innocent and defenceless men, women and children. They are con artists who destroy the lives, communities and the reputation of our Christian nation. PNG must not allow these serial killers to operate as they please. Our country is only as good as the protection we can provide to those who are most vulnerable.”
"Glasman and glasmeri are con artists who destroy the lives, communities and the reputation of our Christian nation. PNG must not allow these serial killers to operate as they please. Our country is only as good as the protection we can provide to those who are most vulnerable.” -- Governor Allan Bird, GBV Committee Deputy Chair
Chairman of the GBV Committee, Hon Charles Abel, also spoke in favour of the Bill. He acknowledged the strong commitment of Governor Bird and Governor Powes Parkop, who together established the Coalition of Parliamentarians to End GBV, which was instrumental in setting up the Committee which he chairs. He also thanked the Prime Minister and Government for supporting the Committee and being willing to support the Committee’s efforts to drive action to address GBV. He also thanked the Tribal Foundation for their efforts to develop the legislation, in particular, Ms Ruth Kissam and Mr Gary Bustin, and many other good people working on the frontline.
Hon Abel noted that addressing SARV was identified as one of the major recommendations in report that the GBV Commmittee tabled in Parliament in August 2021, with the Committee calling for the SARV National Action Plan to be revived. The Committee relied on research and evidence to inform the Report, as well as the current Bill and Hon Abel thanked the National Research Institute for their research on SARV.
He noted that the “Research shows that almost a third of cases involved glasman and meri according to their reports. The profit motive is concerning and that is captured by this Act. A lot of these people are coming into areas like the Highlands who don’t have this as part of their traditions and are utilising it as a way of making money. They accuse innocent old ladies and children take advantage of them to make money.”
"If you perpetrate such things on these innocent women and children, you are a coward. This is not our culture, It is something introduced from somewhere else; it is un-Christian and it is definitely not Papua New Guinean culture.” - Hon Charles Abel, GBV Committee Chair
Hon Abel ended his speech with a strong statement directed at the men of PNG. He stated “I will say it again, if you perpetrate such things on these innocent women and children, you are a coward. This is not our culture, It is something introduced from somewhere else; it is un-Christian and it is definitely not Papua New Guinean culture.” He dedicated his speech and the work of the Committee to the victims of SARV and GBV. His final words encouraged the Government to make the GBV Committee permanent.
The Bill was debated and passed by the House. The Bill will now need to receive official assent and be gazetted before it comes into force.
The Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV was set up in 2020 by the National Parliament. It has six members, in addition to the Chair: Deputy Chairman Hon Allan Bird (Governor East Sepik), Hon Powes Parkop (Governor NCD), Hon Aiye Tambua (Goroka MP), Hon Michael Dua (Governor Chimbu), Hon Allan Marat (Rabaul MP) and Hon Ginson Saonu (Governor Morobe). For more information on the work of the Committee, see the website of the Coalition of Parliamentarians to End GBV: https://www.unitedforequalitypng.com/.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is providing technical support to the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV as part of its gender programming and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.
Hon Charles Abel, Chairman
Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV-
25 February 2022
Mr Werner Cohill, Committee Secretary
C/-National Parliament, WAIGANI, NCD 131