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07 October 2017


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'Civilized men arrived in the Pacific, armed with alcohol, syphilis, trousers and the Bible' Havelock Ellis 1859-1939, English scientist and writer.

Damn straight Phil.

Respect: nothing to do with culture, traditional or modern societies, political systems, economics status, race, religion or even intelligence.

Moreover, men who don't respect women as equals and ignore the inequity that women face worldwide are doing them a criminal disservice tantamount to saying that rape is justified if she was 'asking for it'.

I recall one time in the highlands in the late 1960s when some men dragged a man into the patrol post saying he had touched a woman on the breast.

I forget what we charged him with but he served a couple of weeks in the kalabus.

That seems to be what is missing today Philip, respect for women.

Humans are sexual beings and the moment a young man sees a woman dressed immodestly, his mind is preoccupied with sex.

Sexuality is the driving force that shapes human personality. Sex and aggressive drives create violence in our society that is beyond control.

Traditional people were controlled by strict cultural norms, values and sexuality is a taboo and not to be discussed in public.

The dress was simple, women going around with bare breasts, almost half naked, but not much violence occurred. Women were highly respected because they were producers.

There is modernisation and change in the way people think and how they behave, and we have moved from a spiritual and ethical society to a culture of secular humanism.

Was there really no violence against women in the time before?

When I read accounts of missionaries in the 1930s, who worked and lived even in areas still beyond the reach of the patrol officers, I get the exact opposite impression.

It would be utterly ridiculous to argue that women are now worse off than they were then.

Sexual violence may have been more specifically channelled, for example rape would probably be limited to raids on another village and to one's own wives, as it certainly would not have been acceptable for them to refuse their husbands regardless of circumstance - but it would hardly be less common.

I suspect that for many women, covering up their breasts seems like a small price to pay for the enormous, enormous advancement of their social position that Christianity gave them.

And let us be specific about this: it is Christianity, not Australia, that gave them this - we all know how many Australian patrol officers fell short of Christian standards, particularly in regards to respecting the local women.

By the way, it's also crucial to note that while dress codes differed, modesty did not.

I recall reading a particularly poignant account of a very public marital disagreement one of the missionaries witnessed. A man accused his pregnant wife of infidelity. She angrily denied it, but the man refused to accept her denials.

Finally, determined to punish her, he ripped off her exceedingly skimpy grass skirt in front of the whole village. The woman, horrified and ashamed at being so exposed, immediately climbed up a tall tree and before anyone could
see what's coming, she leaped, killing herself and her baby.

Why did she feel such intense shame given that objectively, she was hardly any more naked than she had been already? Because modesty is not about how much you wear, it's about whether you wear as much as is the accepted standard.

PNG women now are neither more, nor less modestly dressed than they were when they wore grass skirts - the only thing that's changed is the standard.

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