Rape and Domestic Violence: Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, gang rape, and intimate-partner violence was a serious and widespread problem. In a 2015 World Health Organization report, approximately 70 percent of women reported they had experienced rape or sexual assault. According to Amnesty International, approximately two-thirds of women had been beaten by their partners. Due to stigma, fear of retribution, and limited trust in authorities, most women did not report rape or domestic violence to authorities. In January the media reported that a woman was repeatedly beaten and raped by her brother-in-law, who also sewed her genitalia shut and tied her up. Authorities charged the man with rape, deprivation of liberty, and unlawful wounding.
Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by a sentence ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. The legal system allows village chiefs to negotiate the payment of compensation in lieu of trials for rapists. The law criminalizes family violence and imposes maximum penalties of two years’ imprisonment and PGK 5,000 ($1,500) in fines in an effort to end the cultural practice of providing compensation to victims. Implementing regulations were not complete, however, and the law was not in effect despite being enacted in 2013.
Police committed sexual violence, and the unresponsiveness of authorities to complaints of sexual or intimate-partner violence deterred reporting of such crimes. The law criminalizes intimate-partner violence, but it nonetheless persisted throughout the country and was generally committed with impunity. Since most communities viewed intimate-partner violence as a private matter, few survivors reported the crime or pressed charges, and prosecutions were rare. Implementation of the law remained incomplete.
There were 17 family and sexual violence units in police stations across the country to provide victims with protection, assistance through the judicial process, and medical care. Police leadership in some provinces led to improved services for victims of gender-based violence. Nevertheless, comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual violence were lacking in most of the country. This lack of services, along with societal and family pressure, often forced women back into violent and abusive homes.
Those convicted of rape received prison sentences, but authorities apprehended and prosecuted few rapists. The willingness of some communities to settle rape cases through material compensation rather than criminal prosecution made the crime difficult to combat.
Human Rights Watch reported there were five shelters for abused women in Port Moresby, which were often full and had to turn away women in need of counseling and shelter. The situation was worse outside the capital, where small community organizations or individuals with little access to funds and counseling resources maintained shelters.
Violence committed against women by other women frequently stemmed from domestic disputes. In areas where polygyny was customary, authorities charged an increasing number of women with murdering another of their husband’s wives. Independent observers indicated that approximately 90 percent of women in prison were convicted for attacking or killing their husband or another woman.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride price payments continued. This contributed to the perception by many communities that husbands owned their wives and could treat them as chattel. In addition to being purchased as brides, women sometimes were given as compensation to settle disputes between clans.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal, and was a widespread and severe problem. Women frequently experience harassment in public locations and the workplace. In Port Moresby the government and UN Women worked together to provide women-only public buses to reduce instances of sexual harassment on public transportation.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Although the law provides extensive rights for women dealing with family, marriage, and property disputes, gender discrimination existed at all levels. Women continued to face severe inequalities in all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life.
Village courts tended to impose jail terms on women found guilty of adultery while penalizing men lightly or not at all. The law, however, requires district courts to endorse orders for imprisonment before the imposition of the sentence, and judges frequently annulled such village court sentences.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through birth to a citizen parent. Birth registration often did not occur immediately due to the remote locations in which many births took place. Failure to register did not generally affect access to public services such as education or health care.
Education: In 2012 the government established a policy of free education through grade 10 and pledged to provide subsidies for students thereafter. There were many complaints the government did not adequately fund education, leading to overcrowded classrooms, too few teachers, and a decline in the quality of education. Many schools charged fees despite the free education policy, and only one-third of children completed primary school. Primary and secondary education completion rates tended to be slightly higher for boys than for girls. Recent reports confirmed that girls were at high risk of domestic and sexual violence, sexual harassment in schools, commercial exploitation, and HIV infection, which posed serious threats to their education.
Child Abuse: In 2016 nongovernmental Save the Children released the results of a small-scale study showing that 70 percent of children faced physical or emotional violence and 50 percent faced sexual violence or family violence in the home; child protection systems, especially in rural areas, were not adequate to meet the needs of children facing abuse. Other studies found that only the most egregious forms of sexual and physical abuse of children were reported to police, because family violence is viewed as a domestic matter. Although the country passed a law in 2015 to strengthen child protection efforts in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, implementing regulations were incomplete.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years for boys and 16 for girls. There is a lower legal marriage age (16 years for boys and 14 for girls) with parental and court consent.
Customary and traditional practices allow marriage of children as young as 12 years, and early marriage was common in many traditional, isolated rural communities. Child brides frequently were taken as additional wives or given as brides to pay family debts and often were used as domestic servants. Child brides were particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. The maximum penalty for violators is 25 years’ imprisonment or, if the victim is younger than 12 years, life imprisonment. Child pornography is illegal; penalties range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, but enforcement remained a problem. There were cases of sex trafficking of children in urban areas, including of minors working in bars and nightclubs. There were reports of exploitation of children through the production of pornography and that both local and foreign children were subjected to sex trafficking. The law does not criminally prohibit using, procuring, and offering a child for pornographic performances. NGOs reported increased prevalence of child sex trafficking.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
There was no known Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Nevertheless, persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities faced discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, air travel and other transportation, and provision of other state services. Most buildings and public infrastructure remained inaccessible for persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities experienced an under-resourced educational system and attended school in disproportionately low numbers. The government endorsed sign language as a national language for all government programs, although access to interpreters was limited.
Through the National Board for the Disabled, the government granted funds to a number of NGOs that provided services to persons with disabilities. The government provided free medical consultations and treatment for persons with mental disabilities, but such services were rarely available outside major cities. Most persons with disabilities did not find training or work outside the family structure (see section 7.d.).
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual relations and acts of “gross indecency” between males are illegal. The maximum penalty for same-sex sexual relations is 14 years’ imprisonment; for acts of gross indecency between male persons (a misdemeanor), is three years. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons under these provisions during the year. There were reports of societal violence and discrimination against such persons, and they were vulnerable to societal stigmatization, which may have led to underreporting.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no reports of government discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS; however, there was a strong societal stigma attached to HIV/AIDS infection, which prevented some persons from seeking HIV/AIDS-related services.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Press reported vigilante killings and abuses continued to increase and became more common in urban areas. Many killings were related to alleged involvement in sorcery and witchcraft and typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly. The government repealed controversial anti-sorcery legislation in 2013, which had provided a defense for violent crime if the accused was acting to stop witchcraft. The government established the Sorcery National Action Plan in 2016, to be implemented by a national committee. The committee, however, lacked funding to carry out its mandate fully, and despite efforts by some provincial governments, police often lacked the capacity to stop killings of alleged sorcerers. In January, 97 persons were convicted in a mass trial for eight sorcery-related murders that took place in 2014. Eight persons were sentenced to death and the remainder received life sentences.
Church leaders and policy makers observed that the number of persons reportedly tortured and killed for alleged sorcery was increasing. Many believed perpetrators used sorcery-related violence to mask violence against vulnerable members of the community, including women, or for revenge. Reliable data on the issue remained elusive with estimates ranging from 30 to 500 attacks resulting in death per year. In April, eight police officers, including their provincial police commander, killed a man and assaulted several others whom they accused of practicing sorcery. All eight officers were charged and are free on bail awaiting a court date.
Long-standing animosities among isolated tribes, a persistent cultural tradition of revenge for perceived wrongs, and the lack of law enforcement were factors underlying frequent violent tribal conflict in highland areas. During the year tribal fighting continued in highland provinces. The number of deaths and IDPs resulting from such conflicts continued to rise due to the increased availability of modern weapons (see section 2.d.).