PORT MORESBY 12 August 2021: Today, members of the National Parliament witnessed the historic tabling of the first report to ever discuss the impact of gender-based violence (GBV) in Papua New Guinea and call for action by Government as an urgent priority.
The Report was prepared by the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV, which is chaired by Hon Charles Abel, the Member for Alotau. Upon tabling the Report, Hon Abel gave a strong speech calling for immediate action on a range of critical issues identified by the Committee.
Hon Abel stated: “I am deeply concerned at the rising rates of violence in PNG. Every day, our newspapers shar stories of GBV and sorcery accusation related violence which are brutal and unacceptable in a Christian society. But we are also hearing constant stories of tribal violence, communal violence, rascal violence, knife violence, and even gun violence. What has become of our country that violence now seems to be the first resort for so many people?”
He went on to call on every Papua New Guinean to reflect on their own behaviours: “We all must commit to making change in our own lives – to be more respectful of our spouses and our children. Family planning must be part of our home lives too. Family planning fundamentally empowers a woman, probably more than any other factor. She furthers her education, marries later, has less children, is healthier. It strengthens the family unit, the children are better loved and educated and the cycle of violence is disrupted.
"We must address family planning at the personal level, but also at the government level, by properly funding family planning education and related health services.” -- Hon Charles Abel
The Report tabled today captures the Committee’s first set of findings and recommendations from their ongoing inquiry into GBV in PNG. It includes more than 70 recommendations for consideration by different Government agencies.
Deputy Committee Chair, Governor Allan Bird called on all Government departments to read the Report and make serious efforts to implement the improvements recommended. He said: “As an immediate step, the next National Budget must allocate more funding towards implementing the National GBV Strategy, which has received almost no funding at all to date. We understand that the Department for Community Development has made a 5-year budget submission under the Public Investment Programme this year.
"We call on the Treasurer to find money for DfCDR's budget request so that we can start funding proper GBV prevention and crisis response services across the country.” -- Governor Allan Bird
The call for improved GBV prevention and crisis response services is a dominant theme throughout the Report. Recommendations have been made to the Department for Community Development and Religion, which oversees the National GBV Strategy, but also to the Royal PNG Constabulary, the Department for Justice and the Attorney General, the Magisterial Service and National Courts, and the National Department of Health.
Governor Powes Parkop, one of the seven members of the Committee, drew attention to the Executive Summary of the Report which highlights some of the most immediate priorities.
“Law enforcement is one of the areas which received considerable criticism during the inquiry. The police simply aren’t investigating cases properly or promptly and with the limited resources they have and culture in which our people are reluctant to cooperate with the police, GBV has become the invisible pandemic in our country." -- Governor Powes Parkop
He elaborated further: "The prosecutors equally don’t have the time, resources or support they need to develop proper case files and run effective prosecutions. And the courts system – from the Village Courts to the District Courts to the National Courts – appear to be lacking expertise and/or resources to carry out timely, survivor-based adjudication of GBV cases. This has led to a culture of impunity, with perpetrators confident they will never be brought to justice. This must end.”
In addition to focusing attention on the role of key Government departments in addressing GBV, the Committee Report also called on MPs themselves to take more action, as leaders of their communities at the provincial and local levels.
Hon Aiye Tambua, a member of the Committee, took a very proactive position on these recommendations stating:
“I do believe that we MPs must do more to address GBV ourselves. We can use our PSIP and DSIP funds to immediately start funding the creation of provincial GBV secretariats or even by supporting local government and community based organisations to provide GBV crisis services such as counselling and safe houses." -- Hon Aiye Tambua
He went on to say: "In June this year, I participated in a provincial GBV workshop and pledged 100,000 Kina from my DSIP funds for safe houses in my area. I have already been overwhelmed by requests from different bodies – many of which aren’t even in my electorate. I am saddened to see such an unmet need. We MPs can and should do more.”
The Report is based on the findings of the Committee’s ongoing inquiry process. The inquiry was launched at the start of May. To assist with their examination of the issues, the Committee held public hearings on 24 and 25 May 2021, which brought Ministers and officials to answer questions publicly about the Government’s GBV response. The Committee also called for written submissions from the public and received more than 30 submissions over the course during May and June 2021.
Hon Allan Marat, one of the Committee members involved in the public hearings, commended the participatory process the Committee used.
“Our Committee is well aware that there are many hard-working people are striving across the country to support survivors of GBV and sorcery accusation related violence. We were very keen to hear from them – to better understand what is working but also what is not." -- Hon Allan Marat
He continued by saying: "We have used their inputs to inform our report, as well the inputs we received from Government Departments. We have produced very concrete recommendations which we now look to the Government to implement”.
The Committee has flagged their intention to hold another set of public hearings prior to the November 2021 budget session which will be used to examine progress implementing the recommendations in the Committee Report. Ministers and official will again be invited to testify in front of the Committee regarding the progress they have made.
The Committee also highlighted some issues that they want to see action taken on right away. Most specifically, the Committee called on the Government to table legislation in the August session which would reserve a minimum number of seats for women in parliament, in advance of the 2022 National Election. The Committee is aware that the Government is currently proposing five regional seats, rather than the 22 provincial seats for women proposed a decade ago.
Chairman Abel was clear: “Our Committee supports using temporary special measures to immediately include more women in our Parliament. We stress that they should be temporary – in place, until we know that women can get elected without them. But we simply cannot have a situation ever again where there are no women in our National Parliament and we are not confident that can be assured without reserved seats.
“In terms of what proposal is best, we supported the original 22 seats for women that was proposed in 2011, but quite frankly, the Committee simply wants action NOW to create a minimum number of reserved seats for women, whether 5 seats, 10 seats or 22 seats. Let’s see the legislation now, in this session, so that we can debate it and move it forward in time for the necessary laws to be amended, enacted and/or implemented before the Jun 2022 elections.” -- Hon Charles Abel
Following the tabling of the Report today, the Report and its annexes can now be accessed on the Committee webpage.
The Committee was set up in 2020 and has seven members, including Chairman Hon Charles Abel (Alotau MP), Deputy Chairman, Hon Allan Bird (Governor East Sepik), Hon Powes Parkop (Governor NCD), Hon Michael Dua (Governor Chimbu), Hon Aiye Tambua (Goroka MP), Hon Ginson Saonu (Governor Morobe) and Hon Allan Marat (Rabaul MP).
The Committee members extended their thanks to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which provided technical support to the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV as part of its gender programming and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative. This support aims to address GBV and support longer-term efforts to promote women’s participation and leadership in the Parliament.
Hon Charles Abel, Chairman
Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-based Violence
11 August 2021
Office of Hon Charles Abel, MP
WAIGANI, NCD 131