2012 Book Award Finalist
CRYING MERI: Violence Against Women in Papua New Guinea
According to the statistics, in Papua New Guinea two thirds of women are constantly exposed to domestic violence and about 50% of women become victims of sexual assaults (in Chimbu and Western Highlands provinces, 97% and 100% respectively of women surveyed said they had been assaulted). Local men don’t respect their meris (“meri” in Pidgin means “woman”), constantly beating them, often using bush knives and axes. While in traditional villages such attitudes toward women can be attributed to tribal culture, today in Port Moresby violence against women shocks modern society.
Helena Michael (40), mother of seven children. On December 27th (2011) she was attacked by a "cannibal" near the Boroko police station, in the central part of Port Moresby. The attacker bit off Helena's lower lip and wanted to sink his teeth into her throat. The woman managed to escape by kicking her assailant in his testicles and biting three of his fingers forcing him to release her. Police arrested the man and found out that it was his third attempt to eat human flesh. Having spent three days in the hospital, Helena went to the police station to initiate criminal proceedings against the cannibal, but discovered that he had been released due to the lack of complaints. Helena is still waiting for the hospital’s approval to start surgery for skin graft on her missing lip.
Peter Umba Moses (32), one of the leaders of the “Dirty Dons 585” Raskol gang. He says that raping women is a “must” for the young members of the gang. Peter himself has raped more than 30 women, 3 of them were murdered. By his words he has not been involved in any crimes for over a year, but he is still giving criminal advice to the young members of the gang.
Gynecologist Dr. Freeda Wemin examines the genitals of 14-year-old Freda Masked, who was raped by a 40-year-old lawyer. Freda said that the man was a friend of her family and she didn’t suspect anything when he offered her a lift to the market. Instead he drove Freda to his house, raped her and then left her on the road of the settlement. Freda’s father brought his daughter to the hospital but wasn’t sure if he wanted to sue the rapist.
Richard Bal (45) shows disfigured ear of his wife Agita Bal (32) in the Morobe block, Port Moresby. In December of 2010 after coming home drunk, Richard took a bush-knife and cut half of Agita’s left ear. He spent one night in the police station and was released next morning due to "insufficient evidence" to initiate criminal proceedings. Agita’s relatives didn’t allow her to leave Richard, having received 500 kina (about 240 USD) from him for the “potential damage”.
Members of the Raskol gang “Dirty Dons 585”, Nine Mile Settlement, Port Moresby. All of these young men committed a set of rapes and armed robberies. The gang members admit that two thirds of their victims are women.
Mary Elaes (48), a wife of a Raskol gang member, called Blackie. Her husband hangs out with the gang almost all the time, coming home from time to time for food only. When there is no food in the house, he beats Mary, causing limb fractures and other injuries. Because of his criminal activities the police repeatedly look for Blackie in his house and, quite often, having failed to find him at home, arrests his wife. Mary was taken to prison many times, often with her children. To escape from her husband and police brutality, Mary often finds shelter in the local Catholic Church. Port Moresby, Eight Mile, Settlement.
Banil Yalomba (16) came to the Antenatal Clinic of Port Moresby after having been sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. A day after they separated, her former partner came to her parents’ house and dragged Banil to a bush area, threatening her with a knife. There he beat her and raped her. Banil’s father managed to find his daughter laying unconscious on the ground and brought her to the hospital.
A Prison cell of the Boroko police station is mostly filled with murderers and rapists. The police officers on duty admit that it is very rare case that men are imprisoned on accusation for domestic violence.
Molly Liri (42) is waiting for the medical examination at the Family Support Center of Port Moresby General Hospital. Molly was brutally beaten by her husband, a security guard, who does not allow her to leave their house. At the Family Support Center she will be given a 24-hours shelter and thereafter she will need to decide whether to report her husband to the police or go back home, where she is subjected to regular domestic violence.
Police officer Job Eremugo shows on his computer screen a photo of a woman who was a victim of domestic violence. According to him, at the Boroki police station at least three women report being assaulted by their husbands or strangers every day.
Anna Smith (42) and Bernadette Ktui (26) have been living in the City Mission refugee center since December of 2011. They arrived there severely injured and decided to ask for three months shelter, not wanting to go back to their husbands who abused them. The Port Moresby’s City Mission can shelter only 30 women at the same time. In the PNG capital, with the population of three hundred thousand people, 50% of the women are estimated to be in need of protection from domestic or street violence.
Andres Sime (39), is waiting for trial in a prison cell, having been accused of multiple rapes. The Boroko police station, Port Moresby.
A nurse of the Antenatal Clinic of Port Moresby is conducting a medical examination of Doring Kande (23), 5 month pregnant, who was brutally attacked by her husband and expelled from her house early in the morning. Doring's drunken husband assaulted her, kicking her in the abdomen, and repeatedly striking her face against the wall. During the ultrasound the doctors did not hear the heartbeat of the unborn baby. Doring reported to the police, but the man at the time of this report the man had not been arrested.
Linda Amaki grieves the death of her 25-year-old daughter Amanda, who died at the Emergency section of the Port Moresby General Hospital after being raped on the street by members of the Raskol gang. The bandits stabbed her several times and she died without regaining consciousness.
Examination room at the Antenatal Clinic of Port Moresby. Doctors say that every week they receive at least three women, who were victims of sexual assault. However, the majority of Papua New Guinean women are afraid to report sexual violence, not wanting to have their case became known to relatives and neighbors.