The Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is moving ahead with its efforts to shine a light on the deficiencies in national and local level responses to GBV. They have committed to producing a report for the August session of parliament which will include concrete, practical recommendations for action aimed at reducing levels of GBV across the country and improving responses for GBV Survivors.
Their first was to hold public hearings on 24 and 25 May 2021, which brought Ministers and officials to answer questions publicly about the Government’s GBV response. Chair of the Committee Charles Abel reflected:
“The response from the public has been very supportive. Our hearings were the first time the public was able to hear directly from their government leaders about what is being done – but also what is not being done – to help GBV survivors.”
He went on: “We were disappointed that the national GBV response remains so weak. More funding is needed to empower organisations like the police, health service and the courts to do their jobs. The National GBV Secretariat must also be urgently established, staffed and resourced to coordinate the GBV response across the country.”
Following the Committee hearings, members of the public were invited to make written submissions to the Committee. Submissions closed on 30 June, by which time 34 submissions had been received from individuals and organisations from across the country covering a range of issues referenced in the Committee’s Terms of Reference. Submissions can be viewed on the Committee webpage at https://www.unitedforequalitypng.com/2021gbvinquiry.
A meeting of the Committee was held on 6 July to agree on their next steps. Governor Powes Parkop, who is a member of the Committee reported back: “Our Committee plans to finalize an initial report before the forthcoming August session of Parliament. We want the Report to include clear recommendations for steps and actions to be adopted and implemented immediately, and which will ensure that we achieve tangible changes in reducing GBV in our country over the next few years.
Before the life of the current Parliament ends, the Committee plans to submit a final report that covers outstanding issues, including reviewing the current National GBV Strategy itself, to ensure it is more holistic and addresses all aspects of Gender Based Violence.”
Chairman Abel stated: “After this initial report is tabled in August, we plan to hold a second set of public hearings before the November budget session. I am particularly keen to use those hearings to explore issues related to sorcery accusation related violence (SARV), which I am worried is becoming more and more common.
The National Research Institute has just released an important report providing valuable evidence on the significant role of glasman/meri in sorcery related violence. NRI, in collaboration with Divine Word University and the Australian National University also held a conference on SARV last month which was a very important forum for understanding this issue better and identifying better ways to response.”
Hon Abel noted: “I have already had a discussion with the Police Commissioner this month, to follow up on the SARV cases our Committee keeps hearing about. I would like the Government to allocate specific funds to support the SARV National Action Plan endorsed in 2015. We also need to come to grips with why our communities still accept SARV as normal behaviour. I hope by our next hearings, officials can tell us about their concrete response to address this growing problem and come up with solutions that actually stop these vicious cycles of violence.”
The Committee was set up in 2020 by the National Parliament and is chaired by Charles Abel, Member for Alotau, is seven members in total – including Deputy Chairman, Hon Allan Bird (Governor East Sepik), Hon Powes Parkop (Governor NCD), Hon Michael Dua (Governor Chimbu), Hon Aiye Tambua (Goroka MP), Ginson Saonu (Governor Morobe) and Hon Allan Marat (Rabaul MP).
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is providing technical support to the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV 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.