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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 4, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Sexual penetration of a child under the age of 12 will now carry a penalty of life imprisonment under a new law passed by the Papua New Guinea Parliament.

Persistent sexual abuse of a child also carries life imprisonment.

Other sexual crimes against children will now carry prison terms of between five and 15 years.

The tough new laws on abuse of children bring Papua New Guinea a major step closer to meeting its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Criminal Code (Sexual Violence and Crimes Against Children) Amendment Bill and Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2002 were the last passed by Parliament before it ended its term.

The Justice, Police and Social Welfare and Development departments have been involved in the preparation of the new laws.

Moresby South MP Lady Carol Kidu said the amendments replaced outdated, pre-colonial provisions with a new set of offenses stated in plain language and more appropriate to the PNG context.

In her explanatory notes, Lady Kidu states: "The new provisions eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender and provide protection against all forms of sexual abuse of children under the age of 16.

"All forms of indecent treatment, defilement and unlawful carnal knowledge are replaced with three basic sexual offences against boys and girls under the age of 16."

The main parts of the new law are:

*Sexual penetration of a child: This is the most serious crime against children. It includes penetration or partial penetration of any part of a child’s body. Penalty: Life imprisonment

*Sexual touching of a child: This provision makes it a crime to touch a child in a sexual way, or to have the child touch you in a sexual way. It covers fondling and other sexual acts short of penetration. Penalty: Seven years imprisonment.

*Indecent act directed at a child: This crime covers all indecent or sexual acts directed at a child where no actual touching takes place, for example exposing to a child or masturbating in front of a child.

"For each of these offences, the available maximum penalty is higher where the child is under the age of 12 or where the accused holds a position of trust or authority over the child (for example a parent, adoptive parent, guardian, sibling, cousin, uncle, religious instructor, teacher, etc.).

"This is intended to reflect PNG’s strong cultural objection to sexual contact with small children, particularly by a member of the child’s family."

*Persistent sexual abuse of a child: This is a new offence intended to overcome some of the technical problems encountered in trying to prove cases where the sexual abuse takes place repeatedly over time.

In many cases where abuse happens over a long period of time, children have difficulty separating the different occasions and remembering dates or the number of times something happened. This new offence would overcome this problem by allowing police to lay one charge of persistent abuse over a specified period of time or between specific dates. Penalty: Fifteen years imprisonment.

*Abuse of trust, authority or dependency: This provision makes it a crime for a person to engage in sexual activity with a child between 16 and 18 if he or she is in a position of trust or authority, which includes a parent, step-parent, adoptive parent, guardian, uncle, aunt, cousin, teacher, religious instructor, counselor, health care professional, police officer, etc. Penalty: Fifteen years imprisonment.

Defenses: Consent is not a defense to having sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 unless the accused reasonably believed that a child was over that age. Being married to the child is also a defense, provided that the child is over the age of 14.

Incest: The two offenses of incest by a man and incest by a woman have been combined into one gender-neutral offense.

*Child prostitution: The law makes it a crime to use the services of a child prostitute, to offer or engage a child prostitute, to knowingly receive any benefit from child prostitution or to knowingly allow one’s home or other premises to be used for child prostitution.

It also makes it a crime for a parent or guardian to allow or facilitate their children to engage in child prostitution. Penalty: Fifteen years, but if the child is under the age of 12 then it is life imprisonment.

*Child pornography: The law makes it a crime to produce, publish, distribute, sell, import, export or display child pornography. Penalty: Fifteen years imprisonment.

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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