PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 18) - Victims of rape during the period of unrest in Bougainville are now coming out to speak of their experiences.

Helen Hakena, of the Bougainville’s Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, told the Women’s Rights Conference that many women were raped at gunpoint by men from both the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and Papua New Guinea security forces at the height of the crisis.

But many did not want to report the rape attacks because of social stigma.

"Many young Bougainville women were forced to accept sexual acts with these combatants, both BRA and the PNG security force members, for fear of being killed or for security and safety of their family or clan," she said.

Post-Courier Buka-based reporter Gorethy Kenneth — who said she had often received threats not to report about such rape-related incidents — supported Hakena.

Both women were asked to talk on the subject of "women in armed conflict". Both women talked about the terrors faced during the Bougainville crisis.

Hakena explained that many men did not want to marry rape victims for fear of being "degraded’’ in society.

She said that before the crisis, Bougainville women were assertive of their rights and their communities by forming village groups, which she said has been resurrected.

"During the Bougainville crisis, we learned that women were attacked and raped because they were related to political adversaries and simply because they were at home at the wrong time when soldiers or rebels arrived,’’ Hakena said.

September 18, 2003

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/


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