In what appears to be a place of intricate beauty, lies a dark and little known reality that has enveloped the entire country of Papua New Guinea. Over seventy percent of women in the Pacific island nation have experienced some form of domestic violence or abuse as of 2012. The problem is driven by a male dominated, patriarchal society in which women are viewed as inferior and expected to be completely subservient. The prevalence of domestic violence is such that ninety percent of inmates in Papua New Guniea’s largest city and capitol of Port Moresby are imprisoned as a result of family altercations that lead to murder, rape, and assault. Women who were suspected of having extra material affairs or simply failing to please their husbands have encountered gruesome acts of violence including severe beatings, stabbings, and the mutilation of reproductive parts. One women interviewed had scars throughout her body from when her husband stabbed her multiple time with steel scissors. Not only is this kind of violence widely prevalent, but it is encouraged among many Papua New Guinean men who believe it to be a sign of their dominance. Polygamy is also highly prevalent among many local populations and in many cases encourages increased violence due to feuds between wives and the husband’s view that one wife is superior to the other. Divorces can be filled, but women have to go through rigorous processes with the local magistrates and in many cases they are too economically dependent on their husbands to make such a decision. The justice system in Papua New Guinea is highly corrupt and lacks the resources to address many reports of family violence. In an interview of local police, he told reporters that in the end there is nothing anyone can really do about the nationwide problem.
There are Papua New Guinean men who denounce and stand against the violence, however. Michael Blake, a local highlands villager and volunteer at one of the shelters, claims that many men are not setting their priorities right. They spend most of their earnings on gambling and alcohol and when their wives ask for money to feed the children, the men become frustrated and proceed to beat them. The basic needs of the children and wives, he asserts, should always come first and when a man lowers himself to that behavior, he is a failure. Another individual, Charlie Tongia, who is one of the most popular radio broadcasters in the country, has begun to raise his opinions about gender based violence on radio and states that there are alternatives to such conflicts.
Christian Missions and churches have proven to be a source of outreach for these women, in that they have established shelters to both protect and care for them. These shelters provide clothing, food, security, a sense of hope for these women who face severe emotional and psychological problems. Missions have also started to establish programs to give young men more purpose and curve domestic violence rates. Vocational training camps have for boys from troubled households are becoming more wide spread. Unfortunately, for many of these organizations, donor money is scarce and the government of Papua New Guinea fails to provide monetary support.