Supporting Repatriation, Relocation and Reintegration to save lives for victims of Sorcery-Related Violence in Papua New Guinea.

by Casper Damien

This article is focused on support to survivors of violence from the sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea. Its aim is to helping venerable people at risk to get away from the community where they are in danger and settle in another community where they can feel safe and reestablish their lives.

In Papua New Guinea, special attention must be given to address violence against women and girls. Sorcery related violence against women is all against human rights, unacceptable and humiliating. Sorcery related violence is a serious concern right now in PNG because of constant physical violence and killing that involves men and women and children.

In this very unappealing state of affairs, does the government has a plan for Ending Violence against Women in addressing sorcery-related violence and the activity of repatriation, relocation and reintegration of the survivors/victims in the country? Does the government partners with International Non-government organizations to end sorcery based violence in PNG? It is a very important question and the government has a vital role to play together with its partners to achieve its plan in committing itself to promote women’s rights and freedom to life and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in PNG.

There are numerous International Non-government organizations in the country doing so much to help victims of sorcery-related violence in the country. One of the strategies used to help victims of Sorcery-related violence is to repatriate and relocate victims to a safer location and to support them to re-establish their lives again through its program of Ending Violence against women in PNG. 

This strategies includes what action and how each International NGOs will take to better use its local partners, Human Rights Defender Network, Provincial and Local Level Government authorities, Churches, Law enforcement agencies, Health Department, Local Peace Mediators and Leaders, and vital safe programs to make a lasting difference ending sorcery-related violence against women in PNG.

The Government and International NGOs should have an action plan that must compliment objectives of ending violence against women in the country. The ending violence against women program is vital to provide support for those subject to, or at high risk of, violence in all its manifestation. There should be an urgent support to provide through International NGOs’ involvement with local partners in its service provision of counselling, safe-house accommodation, paralegal advice, and referral to specialist service providers. In a situation where violence is so serious, appropriate action is needed to repatriate the survivor, and normally it brings sharp relief to victims.

The primary motivation for supporting repatriation and relocation is to save lives for victims of gender-based and sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea. All measures to combat violence against women must proceed from the needs of the victims. Thanks to many international NGOs with the support of its partners have taken a huge step forward by providing support and protection to those victims who are exposed to such violence. However, to address in supporting repatriation and relocation of victims of violence, the International NGOs alone cannot do it, closer cooperation among the various actors/partners including the relevant government agencies is essential if efforts to support relocation and reintegration programs for the victims are fully supported. The plan for victims of violence is not only repatriating and relocating them to safer sites/place, but it has made available services such as reintegration program for victims so they get the best support to help them find new homes with a life free of violence.

The high prevalence cases of gender-based and sorcery-related violence against women in PNG needs direct intervention from relevant government agencies and other organizations such as concern NGOs, Churches, and international humanitarian organizations. Most efforts by International NGOs and its partners to date have focused on saving victims of Gender-based Violence and Sorcery related Violence against women through its program “Ending Violence against Women in PNG.”  In most cases, the responses to victims/survivors are limited with most women lacking access to basic supports, justice and resource in cases of violence. There are many unreported cases where women are victims and are killed if there is no intervention to prevent them from further causality. 

In PNG, relevant government agencies like Department of Justice, Department of Community Development and Religion, voluntary organisations, NGOs, Community based organizations, and other international organizations that focus on the subject matter that have programs for violence have to develop workable models for joint action to combat men’s violence against women. These models should be based on a comprehensive, integrated approach to the problem: the woman is given the support and protection she needs, the children are given the opportunity to work through their experiences, and the man who is a perpetrator is offered programme measures to help him deal with his violent behaviour if he is brought to justice. This collaboration and service should be undertaken at the local level. The Government, for this model or program to be effective and workable, should allocate funding for these groups that have already initiated such joint efforts, to enable them to evaluate progress, and other related matters of helping relocation support.

The availability of shelters (care centres) for women seeking refuge from domestic violence and services for victims/survivors are limited. The government including the provincial and local level government have no such services available. The only providers of such services for victims of gender-based and sorcery-related violence are churches organizations and some NGOs which are challenging for both the victims/survivors and service providers.

The counselling services for victims/survivors of gender-based and sorcery-related violence, who are traumatized, including children need distinct counselling service provided by the service providers. Providing counselling and care for victims a very challenging task where professional counsellors are needed for this service. Further, service providers and hospitals should ensure that accessibility of emergency health services is free of charge for the survivors. The counselling work needed includes more counselling of perpetrators as part of rehabilitation work. Dissemination workshop participants noted the importance of strengthening the rehabilitation of perpetrators through village court processes and in prisons to reduce reoffending and to help create conditions under which survivors could return to communities.

Progress can be made in regard to the dissemination of information about women’s rights, legal and protection measures and services. The Program of ‘Ending Violence against Women’ is one medium that can raise awareness and dissemination information activities in the location of incidents of violence and organised public rallies on a regular basis. Awareness and dissemination of information about women’s right to a life free of violence will always have a positive outcome. 

One of the key measures aiming to reduce violence against women is provided to ensure the safety and liberty of the women who have been victimized or threatened with violence. The need for more legal protection and effective legal process at the national and provincial level for women will help reduce violence against women. Hence, relocation support to survivors of Gender-based and sorcery-related violence in PNG could be greatly improved if the government were to fully support it, not only through resource allocation but the development of better laws and policies. The Department of Justice and Attorney General’s Office is the appropriate government agency to take the lead in developing relevant laws and policy to combat violence against women in PNG.

The need for awareness of the repealing of the Sorcery Act 1971 (Sorcery [Repeal]) Bill 2013 is one area that needs attention. The repeal, though welcomed by many, is not seen as enough. At the same time, there is a concern that sorcery-related violence might go underground, with killing done more secretly. Since the repeal of the Sorcery Act, village courts no longer have a role in sorcery-related violence, though some continue to deal with such cases. Whether the repeal of the Sorcery Act will have the desired effect of reducing violence is not yet evident. The lack of knowledge about this repeal, and the lack of access to justice means that, in the short term, prosecutions for the murder of people accused of sorcery are not likely. 

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