Extensive awareness conducted by police in Northern Province on the existence of the Family Protection Act (FPA) is changing community attitudes, by helping locals understand the seriousness of domestic violence as a criminal act and protections in place for survivors.
Police awareness on Family and Sexual Violence (FSV) and the FPA in the Popondetta town area, in settlements, villages and in local government wards and districts is helping perpetrators and survivors to understand that survivors have legal rights to protect themselves and their children against abuse and mistreatment.
Since 2012, over 1000 people have accessed the service which resulted in the courts issuing more than 300 interim protection orders to women reported facing persistent domestic violence.
Sergeant Betty Kanari, a police officer of 29 years and officer-in-charge of the Popondetta FSV Unit says it has been a challenge getting people to accept that wife or partner abuse isn’t a “normal” part of marriage or intimate relationships.
Popondetta FSVU Officer-in-charge Sergeant Betty Kanari says issuing interim protection orders under the Family Protection Act has helped to deter family and sexual violence in families and communities.
She says with the combined effort of the courts, the hospital, counselling services and churches to eliminate FSV, it is encouraging to see that a growing number of women, couples and young adults now understand the law and are seeking police help to address family conflict.
“Most men now realise how effective the Family Protection Act is and they are now scared of the interim protection orders,” Sergeant Kanari said.
“Once an IPO is issued men must stay 30 days away from children and wives and must not breach that order. When they breach the order, we have them arrested and taken to court where they are asked to pay a fine or they are sentenced to jail,” she added.
Their work is continuing even during the State of Emergency, although the team has modified their operating procedures to include maintaining proper hygiene, regular handwashing and social distancing.
Community awareness by Sgt. Betty Kanari and her team has helped the public understand the legal rights of survivors of family and sexual violence.
Efforts to strengthen police work to eliminate family and sexual violence, including specialised and sensitised training for officers to deal with emotional clients, are supported by the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership.
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