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Sasa Milosevic

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Facebook Campaign Seeks Justice for Abused Wife of PNG Cop

Posted: 10/14/11 01:20 PM ET

Hurt an animal anywhere in first world countries and chances are you'll be fined of few thousand dollars for cruelty or even end up in jail.

Any attempt to " kill" and smuggle only a small piece of coral reef from the Red Sea may result in arrest at Egyptian airport and fine of $5000 dollars for "destroying living underwater world."

If you dare to raise your voice to your Scandinavian wife and she thinks it could be a form of torture for her and kids, you are also likely to end up behind the bars.

But if you savagely beat your own wife regularly in Papua New Guinea (PNG) nothing will happen.

Even if you unsuccessfully try to kill her after years of abuse -- no problem -- especially if you are a local policeman. Your corrupt colleagues and the PNG judicial system will protect you: because you are the victim, not your beaten wife!

She is maybe ""a witch causing AIDS-related deaths" or maybe "she eats men's hearts." So she always "deserved" to be punished.

This has been the experience of Joy Wartovo who has gone through hell the past six years living under the same roof with her husband-tyrant, a policeman named Simon Bernard who has abused her every day -- at one time from 9p.m. till 4.a.m. As a member of the elite mobile squad carrying with him a government issued pistol he practiced various forms of domestic torturs including daily beatings, burns with a hot clothes iron, bashings with an axe, beatings with hammers and pliers and threats of shootings.

"When I did not cut the beans, he found that as an excuse to argue. If he saw me in the market, he'd pick an argument. If I said hello to my cousin brothers or male in-laws, he would allege that I had an affair with them," Ms Wartovo told local media.

She was not the only victim. Her two kids, four and two, are irreversibly traumatized by their father's maniacal tortures. Unfortunately, they are only two of 1,000,000 PNG kids in a total population of 6 million-plus living with the horror of violence either at home or in their community.

Local policemen, including the PNG commissioner, have constantly ignored her pleas for help and protection.

"You will not get anywhere even if you seek police for help. I do the dirty work for my bosses so I will not be disciplined or dismissed by them," he warned her.

Yes, the PNG police methods are extremely brutal, but the legal system ignores their crimes. According to a Human Rights Watch report, "police rapes of a 7-year-old girl in 2005, and a 6-year-old in 2006, attracted public outrage but no convictions." Women and girls said the police had asked them for sex when they tried to report a crime.


Enjoying the support of colleagues Bernard tried to kill his wife. But she survived several stabbings.

She is currently recovering from an operation complicated by an abscess formed as a result of the abuse. A broken finger, a swollen body, ra e-infected abdomen, cuts to parts of her body and ugly scars from burns to her left arm and left thigh are "souvenirs" from her husband-tyrant she is still leaving in fear of.

However, she decided to speak out, not only to save herself and her children, but also "the other policemen's wives who, like her, have suffered the same in their police barracks homes."

Her story triggered a rapid reaction of over 5,000 New Papua Guineans organizing Facebook group "Papua New Guineans Against Domestic Violence" in less than 48 hours. Up to date more than 15 percent of all PNG Internet users in the country with a high literacy rates have been signed up to the group.

PNG police don't seek justice, but the Facebook campaign does. The members took action in several ways.

Primarily, they promoted the Wartovo case demanding action to arrest the Joy's husband who disappeared in the capital Port Moresby after he was accused of assault, torture, kidnapping, rape and unlawful wounding of his wife on at least three different occasions.

The action has started to bear fruit.

Joseph Trondop, the police commander in the National Capital District Metropolitan Superintendent promised Bernard's capture, asking citizens for collaboration, "I will protect your identity but your valuable information can help put Simon Bernard behind bars and also allow us to deal with officers who do not seem to know right from wrong."

Even this year's theme of an international rugby league match between PNG's "Kumuls" and Australian "Kangaroos" was "Stop Violence Against Women."

The Facebook group promotes an online petition, "Take action on violence against women and children," while many of members try to stir women's awareness of their rights in Papua New Guinea.

"Teach your children well! We have open discussions with our four girls at every opportunity -- "red flags" when you are dating are simply instinctual -- and I advise them to run if dating a guy who shows signs of abuse, be they physical, verbal or mental," advises Lisa Sproul-Crawford, a mother of four.

Mary Vagi Voi concludes it is risk factor to be born a woman:

"In all cultures, batterers are most commonly male. Rural and urban women of all religions, ethnic, socio-economic and of varying ages, physical abilities and lifestyles can be affected by domestic violence."

PNG men were asked to start seriously thinking about the problem of their mothers, daughters and sisters.

"Sometimes I wonder why the brothers, uncles, and fathers of the woman in an abusive relationship are content to sit by and watch her get beaten up by her partner," says Kipling Ninawale, considering the local tradition of "bride price payment" as one reason why victims' families decide to stay silent.

Peter Babul teaches women how to recognize abuse:

"Domestic violence is verbal (nagging and swearing), physical (beating), emotional (silent treatment), psychological (criticism) and economical (neglect). Anyone who commits any of these offense is guilty of domestic violence whether husband, wife or child."

But some of them, as David Putulam, warns that women also may be extremely cruel abusers:

"I remember a woman in my village who force her small children to do laborious task fit for adults. If they did not obey they received cruel punishment. At one stage she forced her small daughter to eat fire from the burning end of the firewood as she made the pot fell off the fire. Her husband says nothing..."

Obviously the world needs to keep watching this part of the world, urgently reacting to this type of terror.

The life of PNG women is not worth less than the lives of American, Scandinavian, British, French, Canadian or Australian females. But if the West really has no time, wish or interest to treat them as a humans equal to the Western ladies, it will be enough to protect them with same respect as they protect dogs, cats, birds or exotic fishes.

 

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