A brief summary of some of the issues currently facing Papua New Guinea, the role of the churches and possible responses.

Australia’s nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea (PNG) has inspiring terrain, unique flora & fauna and beautiful people. However, there are significant challenges in PNG concerning women, children and families which impact its society. This document provides a brief overview of the situation. It contains a number of hyperlinks to enable further research into the issues raised.

The issues

For women

The United Nations (UN) has stated that that violence against women in Papua New Guinea occurs at almost pandemic levels, with two in three women aged 15-24 providing sex in exchange for money, food and shelter. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has estimated that 70 percent of women in PNG will be raped or physically assaulted in their lifetime - potentially the worst place in the world for gender violence.

Recently an American woman was gang-raped. She said,

“This story should not come out just because I am white. My story should come out in the hopes that it empowers Papua New Guinean women to stand up and say no more violence against women in this country. I hope my story can make a change.”

Following the burning to death of a woman in the Highlands of PNG, many people, particularly women, have said enough is enough. The Remembering Kepari Leniata (Leniata Legacy) is one of the many campaigns now underway. The documentary film Papua New Guinea: Battered and Bruised provides further information. Note the important work of the City Mission PNG and Haus Ruth.

For children

Tragically many children are involved in sex work in PNG. A committee, including the PNG Trade Union Congress and the Young Women’s Christian Association noted that there is even child trafficking involving parents and guardians who sell their children to clients. The International Labour Organisation in Papua New Guinea found that children living in Port Moresby are being driven to prostitution, as the main bread winners for their families.

It is reported that in relation to child sex abuse, the statistics coming out of clinics in Lae are disturbing and that something needs to be done to address such high rates. The United Nations Children's Fund has noted that children in Papua New Guinea remain some of the most vulnerable children in the world. Many suffer from domestic violence or are victims of sexual assault.

Social media is reported as facilitating a growth in pornography for PNG youth. A Facebook page has been created to share knowledge and ideas to fight pornography in PNG, "a disease which is affecting adults and the younger generation in PNG”.

Concern by the church and others has been raised regarding drugs and pornography coming in from PNG’s western border.

The responses

National Haus Krai

Following the above serious incidents, a National Haus Krai was organised on 14 May 2013, to highlight increasing violence against women through rape, murder and allegations of witchcraft. There was a prayer vigil held throughout the night.

The churches of PNG played a significant part in organising the Haus Krai. Much of the proceedings involved church presentations and prayer.

During the Haus Krai the PNG Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill apologised for the violence against women and vowed to toughen penalties for offenders.  One of the toughened responses proposed was the reintroduction of the death penalty. The Catholic Church and others are opposed to that approach.

People have also marched in Brisbane's CBD to raise awareness of the violence in Papua New Guinea.

Sadly the violence continues with the recent torture and beheading of a female teacher.

What Australians can do

* Pray for the people of PNG

* Encourage PNG churches working in this area, including support for organisations such as the City Mission PNG

* Support the PNG Government through its High Commission and Consulates in Australia

* Seek that a portion of Australian Aid money to PNG be specifically directed towards these issues for the short, medium and long term

* Participate in, or organise, events such as the PNG800 Bike & Hike sponsored by the Christian Outreach Churches

* Visit PNG as a holiday and/or potential business destination