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By Lucy Kapi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 2, 2002 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea's Parliament has strengthened the country's laws on sexual violence and child sexual exploitation.

Amendments eliminate old-fashioned rules of evidence that undermine prosecutions. They include special procedures to make it easier for children and sexual violence victims to testify.

The changes were included in an Amendment Act to the Criminal Code on Sexual Violence and Crimes Against Children.

Moresby South MP Lady Carol Kidu said the legislation protects "our most valuable resource -- our children -- as well as women and men who are victims off sexual violence and abuse."

She said these amendments replace the outdated, colonial provisions.

She said many of Papua New Guinea's laws and rules of evidence on sexual violence date back to England in the 1600s, and have since been rejected by many countries.

She said important changes include recognition that males as well as females can be victims of rape and sexual abuse, and that females as well as males can commit sexual crimes.

She said: "Sexual violence is a complex problem that cannot be solved by criminal laws alone. However, the law has an important role in reflecting community values and setting standards of acceptable behavior.

"Clarifying and simplifying the legislation is an important first step to reducing levels of sexual violence and child abuse in PNG."

The passage of this legislation will bring everyone closer to meeting the commitment Papua New Guinea made internationally by signing the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1993.

Lady Kidu has worked on this legislation since 1998, when she was asked to sponsor a Private Members Bill on Child Abuse.

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

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