PNG policewoman Rachel Pinda, who has been serving on an AFP placement in the Northern Territory, agreed that cultural norms prevented women from seeking help."They are very strong-willed women but most of them, who are married to those such men, they feel in fear," she said."I think it's because of the way we were brought up to respect men, and the customary thing within it too, even educated women with the fear inside them, that 'my husband's going to this and that and that' or it'll be a disgrace to my family if I report that, it's just these things that they still believe in." Gender-based violence in Australia is nowhere near the proportions of Papua New Guinea, but still alarmingly high, with a third of women having experienced physical violence, and one fifth experiencing sexual assault.
But in Australia, domestic violence law is enforced, and abuse is not condoned by society or viewed as the man's right.
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Officer Harris said she was shocked by the extent to which domestic violence is ingrained in PNG culture.
"Domestic violence is actually socially perceived as a normal aspect of a woman's life, strangely, and in their perspective, remains wholly a family matter and shouldn't be discussed publicly," she said."It's a frustrating issue that exists in the country and its relative to the Wantok system, the conversation and the ethnic divisions, there's cultural beliefs and practices such as the 'bride price', which just perpetuates the issues because essentially it condones the men's control of the women."Men literally believe they own the woman, that it's their right to treat them how they feel and some come into the office and they express pride at times, like "well, I didn't hit her, you know, I could have, that's my right, but I didn't do it on this occasion" but that's not to say it couldn't happen on other occasions." She said because abuse was so intrinsically linked to culture, women were often ashamed to report violence."It is underreported and often women and girls do not know where to seek help," she said.
The charity has collected two years of data from more than 3,000 patients at its two family support centre clinics in PNG, one in the capital Port Moresby and one in the remote highlands city of Tari.
It found most patients were female, most were abused by their partners and more than half the victims of sexual violence were children.
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