KUNDIAWA - Domestic violence is again in the headlines of Papua New Guinea’s media following the death of journalist Rosalyn Evara last month.
At the time of her unexpected death, Rosalyn was business editor of the Post Courier newspaper.
Her death was alleged to be a result of domestic violence, but Port Moresby General Hospital’s chief pathologist Dr Seth Fose, who carried out the autopsy, stated that embalming and decomposition had undermined any reliable findings as to cause.
Earlier, at Rosalyn’s funeral, a family member had made public graphic photos of the harm done to her body.
The matter is now before the coroner for further investigation and final determination on the cause of Rosalyn’s death.
The first case of gender-based violence that came to prominence was the brutal murder of 20-year old Kepari Leniata in Mt Hagen in 2013.
Keniata had been accused of sorcery and was burned to death on a pile of tyres before a crowd of onlookers.
Her case, and horrific images, went viral in social and mainstream media and drew national and international condemnation.
Human rights advocates, women’s groups, NGOs and individuals vehemently called for justice against the perpetrators and demanded that the PNG government take tougher measures to address the problem.
Subsequently Andrew Watea and Janet Ware, the main perpetrators of the atrocity, were arrested and charged with murder.
The PNG government then passed the Family Protection Bill in the same year, criminalising domestic and gender-based violence and enabling perpetrators to be arrested and prosecuted.
The outcome, however, has been disturbing. Reports reveal a very low number of arrests and prosecutions related to gender-based violence.
Most cases are not reported by victims or their relatives. Why?
This is the critical question that needs answers if we are to get to the root of the problem and find a solution.
The way stakeholders address the issue is twofold: undertaking awareness campaigns among men, and providing medical and psychological care for victims before reintegrating them into their communities.
There is little or no effort being made to find the cause of gender-based violence.
On 24 March this year, the government launched a national strategy to prevent and respond to gender based violence. This was the result of a three-year joint effort by various government agencies and the United Nations Development Program.
I haven’t had the benefit of reading the document, but at least there seems to be a road map for addressing this social illness.
With this strategy, it is imperative that the focus be redirected from cure to prevention and that means more research on finding root causes.
The fundamental question to start with is why female victims and their relatives are reluctant to report violent acts to the authorities for arrest and prosecution? Why the silence on the part of victims?
I strongly believe this question will unveil the underlying causes of this violence and from there fact-based remedial measures can be developed.
It is time for redirection of focus to find the causes of domestic violence and to address these rather than just treating the effects.