The Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) wishes to express its serious concern at the spate of newspaper reports recently that have highlighting the light sentences being delivered by PNG courts in relation to GBV.
The Chair of the Committee, Charles Abel has made multiple statements decrying the lack of action by law enforcement bodies to address violence against women and children.
In response to the multiple news reports of judges and magistrates letting alleged perpetrators found guilty of a crime off without proper punishment, Hon Abel stated today: “This is outrageous, unbelievable and unacceptable. It defies belief that our court system in this day and age can make such decisions in the light of such overwhelming circumstantial evidence.”
“It makes a mockery of the term justice and our justice system. How can we change mindsets and the culture of violence in general and violence against women if we allow such acts to go unpunished?”
He went on to say: “Women being killed and maimed by their partners is a criminal act and it should be treated as such. Our recent Committee Report into GBV specifically called on law enforcement bodies to do their jobs better.
We made more than 20 recommendations, calling for the police to investigate promptly and produce proper complaints files. They need to take proper witness statements and witnesses need to feel safe to testify about what they know”.
In terms of court cases, Abel said: “We have called on the Office of the Public Prosecutor to promptly prosecute cases and to call for tough penalties. We also call on the courts system to deliver justice – promptly and fairly. The courts must do much better. What message does it send when men who have killed their partners are allowed to pay compensation and get off? This is simply not good enough.”
Deputy Committee Chair, Governor Allan Bird was also very clear about his unhappiness with the outcomes from recent GBV cases. He has stated: “The public is outraged that our women and girls are unsafe in our country. Every member of our Committee is equally concerned about this terrible situation. We all want our women and girls to feel safe and to enjoy protection and freedom that they deserve.”
Governor Bird wanted to make sure though, that the public understands the role of the Committee, compared to the role of Government law enforcement bodies. He went on to say: “While I understand that the community might expect us to respond to individual incidents, we must respectfully ask the community to relay such requests to the relevant authorities.
The job of the Parliament Committee on GBV is to hold to account all the different agencies of Government that ought to be responding to individual incidents of GBV, sexual violence and sorcery accusation related violence. When these responsible authorities fail to respond appropriately, that’s when the Committee should be brought to bear on the non performing entities.”
Governor Bird encouraged members of the public to continue to advocate for more action from the Government to address GBV issues around the country and reiterated that the Parliament GBV Committee will also play its part. He stated: “Our GBV Committee cannot not usurp the role of the Police or the Justice system.
We play an oversight role to ensure these systems are working as they ought to and we will continue to do that. We will have a second round of public hearings in late 2021 and we will use these to again call these agencies to account and demand them to take proper action”
The Parliamentary Committee on GBV was set up in 2020 and their Report on GBV which can be accessed on their webpage at https://www.unitedforequalitypng.com/gbv-parl-committee.
The Committee is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has provided technical support to the Coalition and Committee 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.