Defining Sex & Gender to End Violence against Women in Papua New Guinea
To end violence in Papua New Guinea is an upheaval battle where both men and women must understand the difference in the term‘’Sex ''and ''Gender’’ before they can understand that all forms of violence perpetrated against women is against women’s right and human rights.
It is also a challenging battle to educate all people to understand that violence against women comes in different forms and may include physical violence; verbal violence; sexual violence;financial violence and the list goes on.
When we talk about violence against women or gender base violence it not about wife beating only but it also includes using abusing language (calling names);sexual harassment; carnal knowledge; rape within marriage; unequal sharing of responsibilities and decision making; and the list goes on.
There are many forms of violence against women but first let us define sex and gender before we look deep into the cause of gender base violence or domestic violence. Sex primarily describes the biological difference between men and women where females and men are born with different sexual organs. Only women have the capacity to give birth, breast feed while men have the capacity to impregnate women.
Gender on the other hand describes the different roles and responsibilities of women and men-what men and females do, what they are responsible for, how they are expected to behave, what they are allowed to do and what is seen as normal and a proper behavior.
Gender roles, responsibilities and expectations vary according to cultural, religious, historical and economical factors. Gender is socially constructed meaning it is a learned behavior. For instance in many Papua New Guinea cultural beliefs women are regarded as inferior, they don’t participate in important decision making or participate in tribal war fares.
For instance, in a coastal community of the DZia Tribe who lives along the fertile Waria valley, south coast of Morobe Province, the male hunt and fish for protein, clear the garden and participate during tribal warfare while the women looks after the siblings and gather food and firewood. These are the learned roles and responsibilities passed on from generation to generation.
Most of this accepted roles and responsibilities and status between men and women are not ‘’natural’’, biological or ‘’God given’’ meaning the idea as stated above about women being inferior to men is certainly not ‘’natural’’-they are the result of cultural and religious stereotypes and prejudices. Such idea and cultural practices in many societies in Papua New Guinea are usually harmful to women and disadvantage women in many ways.
Papua New Guinea’s idea about what female and males should be like and how they should behave (femininity and masculinity) are not static or fixed. They change overtime and they vary both within cultures and between cultures.
Some of the factors which have promoted changes in gender roles and responsibilities are the economic changes where women should need to earn money for their families to survive. In modern Papua New Guinea women are now working and most women are holding prominent and higher positions in the public and private sector.
But most working class of woman is still a victim of a form of violence either perpetrated by her husband, their bosses or their relatives. When are we going to learn the change in gender roles and responsibilities and do away with the cultural thinking that women are inferior to their male counterpart? This is the time and it all depends on you and me.
The political upheaval such as the conflict in Bouganville and Solomon Island were stopped because women cries were heard giving the opportunity for the two warring factions to surrender their arms and live a peaceful live. Though many women were raped, abused and killed during the conflict they were responsible for bringing peace to the warring factions.
To support the above argument development programs needs to involve both women and men to be effective and successful while educational opportunities can open women’s and men’s eye to different possibilities and opportunities as well as increasing awareness of women rights/human rights of all people so everyone can be gender sensitized. To be sensitized meaning you are committed to tackle this issue in all your actions physically, emotional and spiritually.
It is up to the women and men to work together to make this changes in gender relations in Papua New Guinea for the better so that all women, men, boys and girls can enjoy their full human rights.
Parents can build equality between men and women by giving their sons and daughters equal treatment, attention, care, education, encouragement and opportunity to fulfill their human potential.
Church can promote gender equality and to use biblical teaching to end all forms of violence against women in their sermons while the lawmakers can come up with specific and effective laws that can prevent all forms of violence against women in Papua New Guinea.
Gender or Domestic Violence is everyone’s responsibility so let us all stand up and fight this injustice and uncurable disease which is fast eating into the very fabric of our society. If PNG strive to change their attitude the country would become a place where there is respect and understanding among the people regardless of where they come.
By Willie Doaemo