PAPUA NEW GUINEA PARLIAMENT EXPANDS LAW ON INCEST

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 12, 2001 – Post-Courier)--- Parliament yesterday approved amendments to the Criminal Code that would result in a broader range of sexual offences prosecutable as incest following some sexually explicit and blunt debate.

But in a move that disappointed and caused an exodus from the public gallery of a number of women, Parliament struck out provisions in the same bill that would have brought legal recourse to wives subjected to statutory rape by their husbands.

The new amendments, successfully introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Lady Carol Kidu, broadens the definition of daughter, sister, mother and niece under Section 223 of the Code.

It also does the same for son, brother, father and uncle under Section 224.

Many parliamentarians recognized that these embraced more the PNG extended family custom perspective.

The implications are that any man who has sexual intercourse with his daughter, step daughter, adopted daughter or sister, step sister, half sister, adopted sister or mother, stepmother, foster mother or guardian to whom the person is wholly dependent for his livelihood and sustenance or niece whether by custom or otherwise can be charged and prosecuted for incest.

Conversely any woman who has sexual intercourse with her son, step son, adopted son; or brother, step brother, half brother, adopted brother; or father, step father, foster father, guardian to whom the person is wholly dependent for her livelihood and sustenance; or her nephew by custom or otherwise can also face the law on incest charges.

But the provision which would have resulted in amendment of Section 347 was vigorously opposed with a number of MPs, including Labour and Employment Minister Chris Haiveta, Culture and Tourism Minister and Maprik MP Sir Pita Lus, Bulolo MP Samson Napo, and Deputy Speaker Sir Tom Koraea, expressing concern that it was an invasion of the intimacy of marriage.

This was despite attempts by Lady Kidu to explain that this was aimed at providing a legal recourse for a small percent of wives who were subjected to "violent rapes" by drunk or brutal husbands. The explanation fell on deaf ears.

Lady Kidu told the House medical research showed women and girls in PNG experienced "extremely high levels of sexual violence, much of which was carried out by men known to them.’’

"Of the women interviewed, 55 percent indicated that they had been forced into sex against their will,’’ Lady Kidu said.

She said fear of rape also restricted women from participating in public life to their full potential. She admitted she had been a victim of such threats and other women had faced similar intimidation restricting their freedom.

Parliament struck that out after much debate and passed the bill, which now covers the expanded definition of incest through changes to Section 223 and 224 of the Criminal Code.

Parliamentarians expressed strong concern over the need to implement existing laws, including imposition of the highest penalties -- including capital punishment.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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