Photo of naked girl with captors causes furor in Papua New Guinea

Harlyne Joku
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Photo of naked girl with captors causes furor in Papua New Guinea People hold banners at a protest calling for an end to sexual violence against women in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, March 10, 2023.
Harlyne Joku/BenarNews

The naked girl sits on the ground, terror in her eyes, as three men, their grinning faces painted yellow and red, grab at her breasts. 

The photo, which appears to be a screenshot from a social media app, has spread widely online in Papua New Guinea since early March. The image of the girl, likely in her teens, has brought on the latest spasm of outrage at the sexual violence that women and girls face in this Pacific island nation.

“When I saw the image of the little girl circulated on Facebook throughout the nation, I felt so much pain, I was broken,” former parliamentary candidate Diane Unagi-Koiam said in a speech to a protest in the capital Port Moresby on Friday.

“The image shook me to the core. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep or even speak to my husband,” she said. 

BenarNews could not independently verify the date the photo was taken and the location. A statement from Prime Minister James Marape said news had circulated about the rape of a young girl in remote Koroba in Hela province, a highlands region known for its warlords and gangs. He called for police to arrest the perpetrators. 

The easy availability of pornography online is a factor in shaping attitudes towards women and encouraging rape, Unagi-Koiam said, calling for porn to be banned from social media in Papua New Guinea.

About 100 people marched to parliament in Port Moresby on Friday, in a protest against sexual violence organized by Samson Komati, who coordinates an online forum known as PNG Think Tank.

Carrying banners with messages such as “Death Penalty for Rapists,” women protesters chanted “Do not rape your mother, do not rape your sister, do not rape your daughter, keep your hands way from me, respect my rights, respect my life.”

Almost 60% of women and girls aged 15-49 in Papua New Guinea have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes – twice the global average – according to a U.N. database on violence against women. It estimates that more than a quarter of girls in Papua New Guinea are forced into child marriages.

The country also grapples with tribal violence and challenges such as corruption and lack of roads and primary healthcare in many regions. Police numbers per 100,000 people in Papua New Guinea are among the lowest for any country.

Komati told BenarNews he is aiming for a turnout of 10,000 men to an anti-violence protest he is organizing for Hela province. 

Elizabeth Bradshaw, a company director who took part in Friday’s protest, said she wanted more action from the government and police to combat violence against women.

“Rape is becoming a norm in PNG,” she said. 

Police Commissioner David Manning received a petition from the protesters on Friday. He said police need cooperation from the public and provincial police forces to make arrests in rape cases. 

Marape’s statement, which was issued Thursday, said he had called on the police commissioner to receive the petition. Manning, in turn, told the protesters he would give the petition to Marape. 

“We have passed tougher laws like life imprisonment for rapists and gun handlers so it is now on law enforcement agencies to do their jobs,” Marape said. 

“It cannot be the Prime Minister doing the police and magistrates’ job. Police must do their job of arresting offenders, prosecuting the case and securing convictions,” he said.


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