Papua New Guinea: Victims of Sexual Violence Also Forced from School
Friday, April 6, 2012 3:40 PM

Médecins Sans Frontières recently released a study showing that “a significant proportion” of survivors of sexual violence in Papua New Guinea from 2008 through 2011 were minors. For instance, approximately half of all of the victims in the city Lae were under 18 years old, while 31% of the victims from the rural area of Tari were between 5 and 12 years old. Additionally, over 70% of the victims knew their attackers.

While all victims of sexual violence suffer from social stigma and shame, minors face another hurdle: often they are forced out of school as a result of their sexual assault. This is the result of a variety issues, including pressure from family members to marry their attackers in some cases, and time away from school due to pregnancy and child birth in other cases. “If a girl is raped, she may be blamed and beaten by family members.  If she gets pregnant, she misses one year of school and may no be able to go back. Even if she doesn’t [become pregnant], she’s already a different person.  The trauma makes it difficult for her to concentrate on school work,” commented Ruth Kauffman, a project coordinator at Family Support Centre in Lae.

The high rate of sexual assault also impacts school-aged girls who are not attacked. Schools are often located in remote areas, requiring hours of walking for the students. “[T]he journey on the way to school make them vulnerable to attack, especially for girls,” said Joseph Logha of the Department of Education. Protecting girls from potential attack by keeping them home from school only exacerbates the current enrollment gap between the genders. This gap was listed by the United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Education Digest as one of the sixteen “most significant” gender gaps in the world in 2010.

Compiled From: Papua New Guinea: Sexual Violence Forcing Girls Out of School, IRIN: Humanitarian News and Analysis (6 April 2012).

For Full Report:  "Hidden and Neglected: The Medicinal and Emotional Needs of Survivors of Family and Sexual Violence in Papua New Guinea", Doctors Without Borders, (34 pages, pdf).