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Why gender matters in Papua New Guinea

Ruth is a survivor of gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea

Just five kilometres away from Australia’s coastline lies Papua New Guinea (PNG) — a place now home to some of the world’s worst gender violence. Statistics from some areas in PNG now indicate up to 80% of the female population have experienced some kind of abuse.

These statistics translate to a harsh reality for women in PNG; two out of three have experienced domestic violence and 50% have experienced forced sex. In short, every day some of Australia’s closest neighbours are subjected to unspeakable violence and brutality. Rape, murder and assault are commonplace.

At 18 years old, Ruth is a survivor of abuse.

After her mum died she lived with her aunty and uncle where she was abused by her uncle for six years.

“Physically, and…almost sexually molested. I ran away from him,” said Ruth.

Unable to go back home, Ruth found refuge at Lifeline, an Oxfam partner, where she was offered counselling and accomodation. At the time of this interview, she’d been sleeping at Lifeline for two months.

“The staff are really nice … they ask us every day how are we doing. And usually we tell them how we are feeling. And they give us more encouragement, they counsel us,” said Ruth.

Since reporting the abuse to police and spending time with counsellors at Lifeline, Ruth’s confidence has increased.

“I feel more comfortable living here. I feel like I have no problems anymore.”

When we asked Ruth what her advice was to other young women in a similar position, she said it was possible for anyone to be free of the fear that comes with violence and abuse.

“…it’s like a sword inside us. And you can’t tell anybody. And it will grow inside you until it explodes or something. And you can even die, or you can commit suicide.

“I want to tell them that they can come out, from that fear, and that violence and abuse. They can come out. They can stand on their feet and they can tell … they can go to the law, or to the police, or to people like Lifeline and get counselling.”

We support work around the world to help women overcome the discrimination they face, and realise their basic rights. In Papua New Guinea, Oxfam partners with Lifeline to accommodate women, on their terms and conditions.

Read more about Oxfam’s work in Papua New Guinea

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