There are high levels of family and sexual violence (FSV) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Many businesses in PNG, like an increasing number of organizations worldwide, want to address the effects of FSV on their employees and operations to minimize human suffering and to maximize productivity. To date, a range of workplace strategies designed to address related forms of violence (FSV, domestic and family violence, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, violence against women, and gender-based violence) have been developed and implemented, albeit mainly in Western contexts. This article considers the extent to which these workplace strategies can or should be modified for workplaces in PNG. Findings from participatory action research undertaken with FSV service providers, advocates, businesses, and their employees in PNG strongly indicate that workplace strategies should be modified to reflect cultural and other contextual specificities. In particular, workplace strategies should reflect local understandings about what constitutes FSV, who may perpetrate and who may be victimized by FSV, and what supports are available to victims of FSV. It is important to note that while the supports examined are necessarily culturally and contextually specific to PNG, they have subsequently provided important insights relevant for workplace responses in other developing and industrialized countries, thereby extending the evidence base of possible workplace strategies generally.
- family and sexual violence
- Papua New Guinea
- workplace strategies and responses
- cultural context
There are strong moral and economic imperatives for employers to address the effects of gender-based violence (GBV) on their employees and business operations. Over the last two decades, an increasing number of organizations, predominantly in Western countries, have promoted workplace strategies that address the ways in which gendered violence or distinct subsets of GBV—including domestic violence (DV), sexual violence (SV), intimate partner violence (IPV), violence against women (VAW), and family and sexual violence (FSV)—can influence the performance and productivity of employees in their workplace.
Different approaches to employee disclosures of gendered violence may include various combinations of a range of organizational responses, including, but not limited to, developing specific changes to employment, occupational health and safety, and antidiscrimination legislation; workplace entitlements secured through collective bargaining; the unilateral adoption and application of policies and procedures by employers; and workplace-based awareness raising programs (Hameed, 2014a). Specific workplace strategies may be developed and tailored to support individual employees who are victims of gendered violence within the workplace such as safety planning; referral to medical, psychosocial, legal, and protective services; (paid) time off work to access those services; financial support; and provisions to ensure nondiscrimination and employees’ privacy. Potentially, workplace strategies may also be implemented to manage employees who are perpetrators of violence. However, to date, little work has been undertaken in this area. Together, these various workplace strategies, their distinct approaches, and various components benchmark current and evolving workplace practice in addressing the effects of gendered violence on the workplace. This article refers to these workplace strategies collectively as good practice workplace strategies.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), family and sexual violence is the preferred term as opposed to gender-based violence, for reasons described later in this article. Nevertheless, in view of the inadequate research internationally on FSV and the workplace, this article also discusses all of the aforementioned subsets of FSV where the literature is relevant to workplace responses to FSV in PNG. For clarity, this article specifies whether the literature referenced particularly chooses to use any of the following terms—FSV, DV, SV, IPV, VAW, or GBV.
The Business Case for Responding to the Effects of FSV on the Workplace
In PNG, in 2014, 16 out of 17 businesses surveyed by the Business Coalition for Women (BCFW; 2014) answered “yes” to the question, “Do you believe that FSV or other forms of violence against women affects your workplace?” (p. 8). This response from select businesses in PNG resonates both with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’s acknowledgment that VAW can affect the workplace (Commission on the Status of Women, 2013) and Klugman et al.’s (2014) schematization of the individual-level, family-level, and economy-wide effects of VAW by their intimate partners. Both humanitarian concern for the pain and suffering of victims of GBV and economic cases based on the costs to businesses have been evoked worldwide to persuade businesses to take action to address the effects of GBV on their employees and organizations (Williams, 2014).
The moral argument for businesses to act on their humanitarian concern for victims of FSV is grounded in a human rights–based approach and strengthened by the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework.” This framework calls on businesses to “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts” (Ruggie, 2011, Annex Pt. 13). This genre of moral argument is often evoked to persuade businesses to create and implement corporate social responsibility charters and is in keeping with workplace strategies that promote businesses self-regulating their response to FSV.
The business case to address the effects of GBV on the workplace is based on economic modeling, which shows that GBV has “significant economic costs in terms of expenditure on service provision, lost income for women and their families, decreased productivity, and negative impacts on future human capital formation” (Duvvury et al., 2013, cited in Williams, 2014, p. 2). McFerran and Micromex (2011) argued that businesses may directly incur costs as a result of DV through lost productivity due to employees’ absenteeism and inability to concentrate when they are victims. Other influential factors include lost productivity due to misuse of the businesses resources or due to the absenteeism and/or lack of concentration at work by perpetrators (Employers Against Domestic Violence, n.d.-a, n.d.-b). McFerran and Micromex also noted the potential for reduced workplace safety for victims of DV and the workplace in general resulting from perpetrators of DV contacting employees who are victims of DV or their coworkers at work, attending the workplace, or apprehending the victim on the way to or from work. Termination, recruitment, and training costs are also incurred by businesses when victims of DV are forced to leave employment or have their employment terminated as a result of DV (Domestic Violence Workplace Rights and Entitlements Project, n.d.).
Background to the FSV and the Workplace in PNG Project
In 2014, select businesses in PNG who wanted to address the effects of FSV on their workplace approached the BCFW and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to request the development of a model workplace FSV policy suitable to the PNG context. The BCFW is supported by the IFC under the Country Partnership Strategy for PNG 2013-2016, which prioritizes “gender equality as ‘smart economics’” and places “gender issues . . . ‘front and centre’” (The World Bank Group, n.d.-b).
Researchers from the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) had previously developed DV rights and entitlements as part of the “Safe at Home, Safe at Work” (SAHSAW; n.d.-a) program for around 1.6 million workers in Australia and were keen to learn from PNG nationals how workplace strategies developed internationally could be adapted for the PNG context. Specifically, it was important to understand whether internationally developed workplace strategies—which mainly presume that the major risk to employees arises from male violence in intimate partner relationships—were appropriate to PNG society and whether referral of employees to services within the community is practicable in PNG.
This article discusses the key learnings from this process which included a good practice review of workplace strategies developed by 20 organizations in six countries (Australia, Canada, Fiji, Ireland, PNG, and the United States) and participatory action research undertaken in 2014. The project was a collaborative effort between UNSW and Pacific Adventist University, with FSV advocates and service providers, and businesses and their employees in PNG. The outcome demonstrates that good practice workplace responses to FSV in PNG must be grounded in the local context. It is important to note that while the supports examined are necessarily culturally and contextually specific to PNG, they have subsequently provided important insights relevant for workplace responses in other developing and industrialized countries.
This article is structured as follows. The introduction provides an overview of the diversity of PNG societies, defines FSV, and examines the available prevalence data for FSV in PNG and select themes in the literature detailing FSV in PNG. The next section describes the methodology used for the good practice review and participatory action research. As participants’ perceptions of FSV are key to understanding context, their voices form the basis of the “Results and Discussion” section, which presents key learnings focusing on (a) the need for a broader definition of what constitutes FSV, (b) the need to challenge current perceptions of who may perpetrate and who may be victimized by FSV, and (c) the need to recognize the complexities of responding to FSV in PNG.
The Diversity of PNG Societies
FSV in PNG is embedded within intersections of multiple heterogeneous and overlapping PNG societies where individuals are, to varying degrees, simultaneously subjects and agents of traditional, modernizing, and other imperatives (Morley, 1994). PNG societies are characterized by incredible diversity as evidenced by the existence of more than 800 living languages in a nation of around 7.3 million inhabitants (DFAT, n.d.-c). PNG is composed of the mainland (the eastern half of the island of New Guinea) and 600 islands (DFAT, n.d.-c).
Linguistic, cultural, and geographic diversity is particularly important in understanding PNG societies. Narokobi (1983), a PNG thought leader, urged that “we should spring from our cultural values to forge ahead in a world that is moving more and more towards a confused uniformity, monotony and insensitivity to the fine, subtle and sublime beauty of diversity” (p. 7). Nonetheless, Narokobi (1983) asserted that Melanesian “unity springs not from the nation state, common currency, common banks, the police and the military” (p. 7) but by a shared cultural and spiritual vision. Traditional systems of relationships (or obligations) between individuals in PNG, as described in the linga franca of tok pisin, the wantok system, are “characterised by some or all of the following: (a) common language (wantok—literally “one talk”), (b) common kinship group, (c) common geographical area of origin, and (d) common social associations or religious groups" (Mannan, 1978, p. 200, quoted in de Renzio, 2000, pp. 21-22). Wantok systems, which in urban contexts tend to include affiliates beyond the kinship group (Mawuli & Guy, 2007), function as socioeconomic and political networks based on respect and reciprocity, and contribute to members’ economic and social welfare (Nanau, 2011). The wantok system embodies the strong social bonds and boundaries of much of PNG society and is at the root of much of the social cohesion and social conflict evident today. Individuals may simultaneously be supported by the relationship and obligations of their wantok system (Mawuli & Guy, 2007), be in conflict with others from different wantok systems while attempting to fulfill their roles in the modern nation-state, which creates its own relationships and obligations.
The heterogeneity of PNG societies has also been complicated by histories of British, German, and Australian colonization. PNG gained independence from Australia in September 1975 (Jolly, 2012b, pp. xix-xx) but continues to be the subject of Australian foreign policy that emphasizes “Australia’s national interest” (Bishop, 2014). The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT; n.d.-c) describes Australia’s current relationship with PNG as “one of our most complex and wide ranging.” Australia is the largest aid donor to PNG and provided Aus$502.4 million in aid in 2013/2014 (DFAT, n.d.-a). Australian aid specifically targets FSV through two primary initiatives. The first initiative being the “Gender Equality and the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence” initiative earmarking Aus$19.8 million in aid for the 2008-2016 period. The second initiative, the “Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development,” allocated Aus$58 million for the 2012-2022 period (DFAT, n.d.-d).
PNG is also characterized by high economic inequality. PNG is a lower middle-income country (The World Bank Group, 2015) that has experienced strong economic growth over the last decade (DFAT, n.d.-a) with a per capita GDP of US$2,138 in 2014 (DFAT, n.d.-b). Yet an estimated 40% of PNG’s population live in poverty (DFAT, n.d.-a). Wealth creation in PNG is mainly driven by the agricultural and extractive industries (DFAT, n.d.-c). Income and wealth are inequitably distributed, with 80% to 85% of the population who live a “traditional village-based life” deriving their income from subsistence gardens and small-scale cash cropping (DFAT, n.d.-c). At the other end of the economic spectrum, PNG society also encompasses highly educated, transnationally mobile urban elites, including a growing number of elite women (Spark, 2014).
The PNG Country Gender Assessment (The World Bank Group, n.d.-c) is at times quoted to demonstrate that labor force participation is high for both males and females, estimated to be close to 61% for each cohort. This figure more reflects the tendency for most rural men and women to engage in informal economic activities, including farming, fishing, and trading, all of which may be counted as workforce participation. In the formal sector, men are almost twice as likely as women to work for wages (40% of men vs. 24% of women nationally). That gap is consistent across both urban (43% vs. 23%) and rural (36% vs. 18%) areas. In reality, only one in eight persons with access to cash income is female demonstrating clear gender differences in formal employment in PNG.
Even though the formal employment sector and urbanization constitutes a small proportion of PNG livelihoods (Asian Development Bank, 2014), the importance of this sector should not be underestimated as the sector characterizes economic modernity and is a powerful force in shaping PNG societies. Employers in PNG may also have a greater role in their employees’ lives, compared with employers in Western contexts. Employers in PNG often provide employees with transport, accommodation, and other goods and services (BCFW, 2014), as these goods and services may not be easily accessible in the community (Mawuli & Guy, 2007). Workplaces also may have a greater role in shaping what in the West would be considered employees’ private lives, through the social norming of what is considered appropriate behavior for employees even outside work (Spark, 2010).
PNG is also often characterized as a very violent society with 67% of 135 businesses surveyed in PNG identifying crime as a major constraint, more than 4 times the regional average for firms in East Asia and the Pacific (The World Bank Group, 2014, p. 3). In the survey as
"Crime" was defined as break-ins, vandalism, vehicle theft, property theft without force, arson (burning of premises), assault of employees on the business premises, kidnapping of employees, employees suffering violence/being attacked on the way to and from the business premises, misappropriation of funds or petty theft by employees, and extortion.
While FSV has not been explicitly included in this definition of crime, assault, kidnapping, and employees suffering violence may be as a result of FSV. It is also important to note that FSV occurs within an environment of high levels of crime and violence generally (The World Bank Group, 2014).
FSV in PNG thus occurs in a context of “strikingly diverse, small fragmented social groups” (The World Bank Group, n.d.-a) with histories of colonization and continuing foreign interests. Moreover, PNG is a nation that encompasses traditional village-based life and modern urban centers, great economic inequality, and crime and violence, and where employers may play a large role in determining employees’ well-being. It should be noted, however, that levels of heterogeneity, power, and inequality characterize all societies worldwide. The intent of describing the specificities of some of the trajectories of power in PNG is not to single out PNG as more troubled than other societies but to understand the particularities of context.
Defining FSV in PNG
In this article, the term FSV refers to family violence—which is also referred to interchangeably as domestic violence in PNG (PNG DoH, 2013)—and sexual violence. The PNG Family Protection Act (FPA; 2013) stipulates that DV is any act, or series of acts, or threats to commit these acts, of assault, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, indecent or offensive behavior, or property damage, committed by a family member against another family member. The Act defines family broadly to include spouses, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, and “any other person who is treated by the spouses as a family member” (FPA, 2013, p. 2). This definition of family is wider than definitions of family in Western non-Indigenous contexts and includes polygamous relationships and people who cohabit but may not be related, and as such it is important that Western researchers and practitioners not assume that their own definitions of family are universally relevant.
SV is defined by the World Health Organization as
any act in which one person in a power relationship uses force, coercion or psychological intimidation to force another to carry out a sexual act against her or his will or participate in unwanted sexual relations from which the offender obtains gratification. Abusive sexual contact occurs in a variety of situations, including within marriage, on dates, at work, in school and in families (such as incest). Other manifestations include undesired touching, the oral, anal or vaginal penetration of a penis or objects and obligatory exposure to pornographic material. (Fulu et al., 2013, p. 107)
Both the PNG Family Protection Act (2013) and the definition provided by Fulu et al. (2013) for the World Health Organization recognize that women, men, and children can perpetrate and/or be victims of DV or SV. DV is differentiated from SV, in that DV encompasses a broader range of violent acts and may only be perpetrated by someone who is recognized to be a family member, whereas SV refers to only violence of a sexual nature and may be perpetrated by those outside the family as well as those within the family. Fuluw et al.’s definition succinctly encapsulates the main features of SV, including the use of coercion and psychological intimidation, and resonates with understandings of DV that include violence of an emotional and psychological nature.
What Is the Prevalence of FSV in PNG?
While there are no comprehensive data on the prevalence of FSV in PNG (Eves, 2006), there is general agreement based on available data that prevalence rates are unacceptably high (Macintyre, 2012). The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (SRVAW; 2013) reported that “violence against women in the family is widespread, pervasive and often tolerated” (p. 5), and found that the last official prevalence data from the 1980s remain relevant with approximately two in three married women experiencing violence perpetrated by their husbands. However, it is unclear from this report whether polygamy is explicitly considered or whether the data only refer to VAW in monogamous relationships.
The SRVAW (2013) also stated that rape and sexual assault had reached “epidemic levels” (p. 7), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF; n.d.) reported that “an alarmingly large number of SV survivors are children . . . [with] 53% of all rape survivors in February 2014 and 65% of all rape survivors in March ” receiving treatment from MSF in their “Regional Treatment and Training” supported facilities in the National District Capital being children below the age of 18 (p. 3). There is little data about the victimization of men, although a recent multicountry study about men’s VAW reported that 6.6% of men who were surveyed in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville had “experiences of sexual victimization by another man” (Fulu et al., 2013, p. 62).
It is reasonable to suggest that care should be taken in attempting to understand FSV in PNG based solely on prevalence data because this focus can only offer data on particular subsets of FSV. For instance, the Law Reform Commission Report (cited in SRVAW, 2013) only offers data on the prevalence of husbands physically assaulting their wives and does not offer information about FSV perpetrated by family members who are not husbands against other family members who are not wives, or about nonfamily members perpetrating SV. Prevalence of FSV in PNG may currently be underestimated, as the data do not capture all manifestations of FSV. Arguably, this may suggest that FSV is underestimated for similar reasons in other countries.
Moreover, there are regional variations in the incidence of FSV (Eves, 2006), and data from particular regions should not be generalized to the population of PNG. For example, the previously quoted prevalence data of men’s experience of sexual victimization by another man from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville should not be generalized because, unlike other regions in PNG, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville was the site of “lengthy armed conflict from 1988 to 1998” (Fulu et al., 2014).
For these reasons, it is widely agreed that there is a need for more comprehensive data collection on the prevalence of FSV in PNG (Bradley cited in Lewis, 2012; Chandler, 2014; MSF, n.d.). It is equally important that future studies ascertain the prevalence of all types of FSV and not only collect data on the prevalence of men’s VAW in heterosexual intimate relationships, as is common internationally. For example, the Model Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) only asks men and women their opinion about possible justifications for husbands physically assaulting wives, but not about other forms of FSV (DHS, 2014a, Question 618; DHS, 2014b, Question 932). Limiting the data collection excludes some forms of violence, as well as the lived experiences of some individuals from scrutiny. This allows for narrow definitions to shape our understanding of FSV which do not truly reflect the actual incidence and patterns of violence in the PNG context.
FSV in PNG—The Literature to Date
There is a high level of acceptance of FSV in PNG with gendered violence being viewed “as a customary, collective practice in PNG . . . and as normal” (Jolly, 2012a, p. 3). There is extensive literature on the reasons for the acceptability of violence that canvases the roles of and tensions between traditional cultures and modernity in creating an environment where FSV is acceptable (Morley, 1994). There is also wide acknowledgment of the many failures and further harms caused by the police, judiciary, the church, and large-scale awareness raising programs in responding to FSV (Chandler, 2014). In addition, the role of men perpetuating FSV against women is given a great deal of consideration, but there is limited attention to men who are victims of FSV or women who are victims of other women’s violence.
The high acceptability of FSV in PNG and in particular GBV has been correlated with the perception by members of the community that some violence is justifiable (Macintyre, 2012). Macintyre (2012) stated, “Both men and women regularly explained their refusal to intervene in cases of DV because the man “must have a reason” (p. 253). Reasons provided with the intention of justifying husbands’ violence against wives include that it is “corrective,” “educational,” “informative,” or “for teaching a lesson” (Bradley as quoted by Eves, 2006, p. 24), and it is based on a wife’s provocation (Eves, 2006, p. 24).
The roots of justifications of violence have been traced by various authors to traditional cultures, modernizing imperatives, or the interplay of both factors (Morley, 1994). Traditional cultural practices of bride price, polygamy, sorcery, and witchcraft have been interrogated by researchers to reveal how violence is used to constrain men and women into socially ascribed roles as well as to police the transgression of those roles. Modernity—including colonization, the introduction of Christianity, and the market state—has been critiqued to expose patriarchal control and the use of violence to impose control (see, for example, Gibbs, 2012, on sorcery; Hermkens, 2012, on Christianity; and Zimmer-Tamakoshi, 2012, on the changing roles of marriage in PNG societies). The continuum of control from traditional cultures to patriarchal modernity has also been scrutinized with Jolly (2012b) arguing that
it is a complete dead end to blame either indigenous “culture” or the devastating dispossession and emasculating effects of colonialism for such contemporary configurations of gender violence . . . [and that traditional customs experienced] over generations and the violence of colonial possession of the land and gendered violence against its peoples, including the capitalist commodification of women’s bodies” [need to be simultaneously accounted for]. (p. xxxiii)
Responses to FSV in PNG have also been extensively critiqued with wide acknowledgment that current supports available to victims of FSV are inadequate and often harmful. Lewis (2012) stated that “police in PNG are known to sexually harass and rape those reporting sexual assault” (p. 12), and Eves (2006) reported that “women are ill-served at all levels of the male dominated law and justice sector” (p. 12). Macintyre (2012) found that traditional restorative justice provided through village courts is ineffective in applying sanctions to perpetrators of FSV as sanctions may be seen as socially disruptive, yet justice from statutory courts is often no better as the men who preside in these courts are also products of the male-dominated cultures of PNG. In addition, responses offered by the Church to FSV in PNG have been critiqued with Hermkens (2012) arguing that the “cult of Mary” and the doctrine of submission propagated by some churches in response to FSV instruct women to bear violence stoically just as Mary, the Mother of Christ, bore hardships in her own life.
Awareness raising programs such as the use of posters and theater groups to raise community awareness about social issues have also been found to be ineffective as they often reinforce gendered stereotypes (Jolly, 2012a). Moreover, violent backlashes against women have been reported after the implementation of such programs leading Macintyre (2012), to suggest that antiviolence awareness programs that do not address the economic dependence of women are unlikely to succeed.
Consistent with the research already presented, it is apparent that the primary focus of FSV research in PNG is on men’s VAW. While select researchers acknowledge that boys and men are victims of violence too (Eves, 2006; Jolly, 2012a; McPherson, 2012; Zimmer-Tamakoshi, 2012), there is little or no comment as to the reasons for this violence unless it pertains to understanding VAW or children. Women’s violence is also left unexplored other than as a rationale for men’s VAW in certain circumstances or in relation to the policing of gendered roles. Research which emphasizes patriarchal power structures at the cost of all other trajectories of power consign women to a role of abject subjection and does not recognize that women are a heterogeneous group with desires that may not be in solidarity with all other women. Literature that only focuses on men’s VAW may also fail to recognize violence perpetrated against men and women for reasons other than the perpetuation of patriarchy.
The key themes emerging from the literature on FSV in PNG to date—the high acceptability of certain forms of FSV in PNG; the often inadequate supports offered to victims of FSV in PNG; and the limited research about FSV perpetrated by women or against men—provide context for the project under discussion. The following section describes the method used in undertaking the project.
The project was jointly undertaken by researchers from the GVRN at the UNSW in Australia and researchers from the Pacific Adventist University located in Port Moresby, PNG, in partnership with the IFC and BCFW. The Workplace Strategies—Papua New Guinea project (Ethics Approval 24.14) was conducted between September and December 2014 and consisted of (a) a good practice review of workplace strategies that address the effects of FSV on workplaces (Hameed, 2014a) and (b) participatory action research undertaken with FSV advocates and service providers, and businesses and their employees in PNG (Hameed, 2014b) to develop a Model Policy for workplace response to FSV in PNG. The following discussion explores the perceptions of research participants on the applicability of the identified international good practice workplace strategies for workplaces in PNG context. The discussion does not present the PNG project in its entirety but focuses only on key learnings. The methodology used for the good practice review and the participatory action research is briefly outlined below.1
Good Practice Review
The good practice review involved the identification of key components in current workplace strategies developed by 20 organizations in six countries (Australia, Canada, Fiji, Ireland, PNG, and the United States), which address the effects of FSV or a subset of FSV (DV, SV, IPV, and VAW) on the workplace. In this review, workplace strategies presented in this literature were initially assessed against the SAHSAW (n.d.-b) seven key principles, which were proposed by the SAHSAW project as essential for workplace strategies to be effective. It should be noted that the SAHSAW project focused solely on DV as opposed to the broader area of FSV identified as important to the PNG context. Despite this limitation, the SAHSAW principles may apply equally to FSV. The seven principles recommended by SAHSAW are as follows:
Dedicated additional paid leave for employees experiencing family and domestic violence (FDV) or DV;
Confidentiality of employee details must be assured and respected;
Workplace safety planning strategies to ensure protection of employees should be developed and clearly understood by the parties concerned;
The agreement should provide for referral of employees to appropriate FDV or DV support services;
Provision of appropriate training and paid time off work for agreed roles for nominated contact persons (including union delegates of health and safety representatives, if necessary);
Employees entitled to FDV and DV leave should also be able to access flexible work arrangements where appropriate; and
Employees must be protected against adverse action or discrimination on the basis of their disclosure of, experience of, or perceived experience of FDV and DV.
For the good practice review, any additional workplace strategies were then identified from the reports of the projects in the six countries as previously listed. In total, 26 strategies were identified as “issues for deliberation” in the review. It should be noted that workplace strategies reviewed in PNG—the National Public Service Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Policy (Department of Personnel Management, n.d.) and the Toolkit (Department of Personnel Management, 2013)—were at a nascent stage and only foreshadowed implementation. Also, at the time of the review, Fijian workplace strategies (Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, 2013) had not yet been fully developed. An important point for consideration is that strategies from both the earlier PNG and Fijian responses borrowed from international, and predominantly Australian, approaches meaning that the particular context of a developing country may not be well reflected. This article aims to address this gap in workplace strategies by considering the specificities of the context in PNG.
Participatory Action Research
The participatory action research project undertaken in PNG in 2014 consisted of five semistructured key informant interviews with personnel from organizations providing advocacy or direct services to victims and survivors of FSV and three focus groups involving employers, female employees, and male employees, respectively. All participants were invited to participate via the existing BCFW networks. Key informants were interviewed to ascertain the availability, accessibility, and responsiveness of services and advocacy (current or planned) for victims and survivors of FSV. The objective of the three focus groups was to ascertain both employer and employee views on how FSV can affect the employees and the organization generally and to gather their perceptions of what would constitute appropriate workplace responses. While this was a small-scale project in only one part of PNG, the findings nonetheless provide insights for workplace responses in a PNG context and indicate areas for further study.
Consistent with participatory action research, the need for the research emanated from the participants themselves and in particular from select businesses who initiated and developed the project brief with the BCFW and IFC. The research methodology was driven by a commitment to value local knowledge, culture, resources, skills, and process, and work in solidarity with the community (Ife, 2013). The choice of a participatory action research framework ensured that PNG participants were given the opportunity to frame their own understanding of the project brief and to actively participate in the development of their own responses to FSV and the workplace. In a collaborative process, research participants, researchers, and the funder have collectively produced research outcomes such as the Good Practice Review, a Participatory Action Research Report, and a Model FSV Workplace Policy. These outputs form the basis of a planned implementation of the model workplace FSV policy with selected PNG businesses in 2015 alongside further research on the effects of FSV on the workplace in PNG.
Results and Discussion
The FSV and Workplace Strategies—Papua New Guinea project found that current workplace strategies cited as good practice in other countries do not sufficiently allow for the specificities of FSV in PNG as most of these strategies are focused on men’s VAW in intimate partner relationships. In particular, PNG participants had a wider view of what constitutes FSV as well as who may perpetrate and be victimized by FSV than envisaged in workplace strategies developed in other contexts. Participants also raised issues about the complexity of responding to FSV in PNG and desired a more granular response to FSV than suggested in the workplace strategies from other contexts. The following discussion explores three key issues necessary for a more complete understanding of what constitutes good practice responses in the PNG context: (a) broadening definitions of what constitutes FSV, (b) challenging current perceptions of who may perpetrate and who may be victimized by FSV, and (c) identifying the particular complexities of responding to FSV in PNG.
Broadening Definitions of What Constitutes FSV
Discussions about what constitutes FSV were underpinned by an explicit acknowledgment of the high rates of violence and crime in PNG. In both interviews and focus groups, participants identified a broader range of behaviors and relational processes which they believed constituted FSV than the existing definitions of DV or SV proposed in previous projects in predominantly Western contexts. Participants universally identified DV and SV as constituting FSV and also included various forms of bullying in the workplace. Many participants gave examples of swearing at another person in the workplace, an act which would not constitute DV under the Family Protection Act PNG (2013) nor constitute SV under Fulu’s (2013) definition, but which nonetheless was reported as causing considerable suffering and humiliation. Participants reported that swearing was often part of the workplace culture and often used to “get the job done.” One participant was concerned that swearing can make staff members uncomfortable even when it is not directed at the employees themselves: “some people [learn to] accept it, but others silently suffer.” Many participants spoke about the swearing of expatriate managers and highlighted the power differentials between expatriates and national staff. Others spoke of the socially ascribed roles for men and women in PNG and their discomfort when these roles are breached with one participant stating, “PNG is male dominated. There are roles for women. I get uncomfortable if a woman uses the ‘f’ word in a story. I just walk away . . . This is violence against men. Men feel violated.”
While swearing at colleagues may not legally constitute FSV, the strongly emergent theme of swearing in the workplace in PNG is worthy of consideration. It is also noteworthy that participants in the research constituted acts such as swearing as violence as it reveals their understandings of power and who has power over whom—the import being that such operations of power need to be addressed in FSV workplace strategies. In particular, participants objected to the swearing of expatriate managers on the basis that these managers had power over employees due to their status as managers and due to the continuing vestiges of colonization. Gender was also important as participants objected to women swearing on the basis that they were transgressing their traditional roles and challenging the PNG male-dominated culture. It is apparent that participants have strong views about the appropriate operations of power and that workplace strategies designed to address FSV and its effects on the workplace need to engage more fully with localized notions of power.
Currently, workplaces address misuses of power such as bullying, sexual harassment, and FSV separately. Workplace legislation, enterprise bargaining agreements, and policies and procedures are separated into discrete groupings based on the definitions of what constitutes each act of violence. Such conceptual separation of like behaviors can be counterproductive. For example, the one described by a female participant—“fellow workmates whistle or say something [vulgar or derogatory] every day”—could be equally and separately construed as bullying, sexual harassment, or SV, and trigger multiple responses with varying procedural requirements and available remedies.
Arguably, collapsing workplace strategies addressing bullying, sexual harassment, and FSV into a single coherent strategy to address such violence would in the short to medium term be legislatively impractical, industrially destabilizing, and the change process would be very resource intensive for the organizations concerned. In the first instance, what is required is not a simple rewriting of workplace strategies but a conceptual shift in the development of strategies to engage with contextualized understandings of power.
Current good practice workplace strategies do not address the complexities of power and social structures. In PNG, in addition to colonization and traditional gender roles, the wantok system is also a key practice that defines social obligations and relationships. For instance, participants identified that the wantok system can help or be a hindrance in accessing support for FSV. Participants noted that victims often turn to their wantok for assistance but that perceptions of wantokism can hinder the willingness of victims to access service, particularly if staff members employed by service providers belong to the perpetrator’s wantok. Participants also stated that wantokism can affect the response to FSV with one participant stating, “sometimes the mentality of police when wantok is involved is—we don’t want to know, or sort it out outside.” Further research is required on the details of how the wantok system can be a support or a possible barrier to access in responding to FSV.
The following discussion further unpacks participants’ views on the power dynamics of the perpetration of FSV as well as challenging usual perceptions of whom may be considered to be a victim.
Challenging current perceptions of who may perpetrate and who may be victimized by FSV
Participants’ perceptions of who may perpetrate and who may be victimized by FSV challenged usual assumptions about the gender of perpetrators and victims. Participants identified that both men and women may perpetrate FSV and that while they reported a pronounced gender asymmetry by suggesting that women and children are predominantly the victims of FSV, participants clearly stated that men may be victims too. When discussing IPV participants shared that in their experience, FSV is an issue which may include a husband perpetrating violence against their wife or wives, a wife perpetrating violence against their husband, wives perpetrating violence against other wives, and men fighting over a woman. One participant noted that the incidence of polygamous relationships in PNG was quite high and estimated that out of the 487 cases of violence reported to their organization between January 2014 and October 2014, it was likely that in approximately 86 cases, the survivor of FSV was in a polygamous relationship. This assessment was made on the basis of the available service intake information, for example, where a client had reported that the other wife had hit them. The prevalence of violence between women within polygamous relationships in PNG is important to note as workplace responses to FSV developed in other contexts do not consider polygamous relationships. Two participants stated that in their experience, FSV is not just about gendered power relations and that it encompasses more than IPV perpetrated against a woman or SV against women. These same participants took issue with international agencies in PNG using the terms gender-based violence and violence against women interchangeably with FSV.
Participants’ perceptions are a direct challenge to most good practice workplace strategies that conceptualize DV only and then predominantly in relation to men’s VAW in heterosexual monogamous intimate partner relationships. Conceptualization of FSV predicated solely on select feminist readings of power elevating patriarchy and gender above all other power dynamics provides insufficient explanation of FSV in the PNG context. Participant’s views were more consistent with a multidimensional approach to power that recognizes multiple trajectories and intersections of power.
Based on participants’ statements, it is reasonable to suggest that current good practice workplace strategies fail to conceptualize FSV adequately as they primarily focus on men’s VAW in monogamous intimate partner relationships and most fail to recognize men as victims of violence. Given the differing context in PNG, there is an urgent need for research establishing the incidence of all forms of FSV, as well as the prevalence rates of FSV which identify the victim’s relationship to the perpetrator of the violence. Data such as these would inform a more nuanced workplace response to FSV that is more consistent with participants’ understanding and experience of FSV in the PNG context.
The Complexity of Responding to FSV in PNG
The assumption of a functioning state-sponsored legislative and protective framework, and the assumption that appropriate support is available to victims of FSV within their community, underpins all workplace strategies reviewed for this project. In PNG, however, there is no such functional framework, and supports are not uniformly available, if at all. These factors reinforce the need to develop FSV workplace strategies differently in PNG and outside of an industrial framework as has predominated to date. This latter point underscores the importance of modifying current good practice FSV workplace strategies to ensure that they reflect of the local context.
The need to develop FSV workplace strategies in collaboration with local businesses
To date, internationally workplace strategies have been developed on the basis that there is a legislative framework that can provide remedies if rights and entitlements are breached. While legislation on FSV and the workplace does not necessarily need to precede industrial entitlements on FSV and the workplace, industrial parties need to have the confidence that entitlements will be upheld through the courts if necessary. For instance, in Australia, DV workplace entitlements for around 1.6 million employees were secured through bargaining between unions and employers (SAHSAW, n.d.-a) prior to legislative changes to the Fair Work Act (2013) that enshrined minimum entitlements for all workers in the federal jurisdiction (SAHSAW, n.d.-c). In Australia, researchers at UNSW, who were part of the SAHSAW program, conducted the campaign for these entitlements in partnership with the Australian trade union movement.
Arguably, in PNG such a campaign would be ill conceived as the industrial landscape is different with participants advising researchers that enterprise bargaining coverage in some sectors is as low as 10%. While industrial legislation exists, few rights and entitlements can be accessed through the courts in practice. There are barriers to accessing mediation and arbitration through the PNG Department of Labour with one participant stating, “There are unsolved cases from as far back as 2003 and 2004. Sometimes the mediator or chairperson is not there when the mediation is scheduled.”
As such collaboration with local businesses is vital in PNG to ensure that businesses are supportive of implementing FSV workplace strategies as developing entitlements though bargaining and enforcing implementation though industrial mechanisms is unlikely to be successful. Furthermore, as reported by participants, because legislation regarding FSV such as the Family Protection Act (2013) has not been fully implemented with the regulations underpinning the Act still to be finalized, the active collaboration of businesses is necessary to provide employees with some certainty in an otherwise uncertain environment. Certainty of a response may be particularly important in an environment where, as reported by participants, businesses take a more active role in employee well-being than in other countries, including providing employees with housing, transportation to and from the workplace, and meals at the workplace.
Direct collaboration with businesses also allows for a more granular understanding of the possible ways in which FSV affects the workplace and what responses might be feasible at each specific workplace. Hence, the development and implementation of FSV workplace strategies more generally may benefit from closer collaboration with businesses in addition to existing relationships with trade unions.
Participants’ experiences of responding to FSV in PNG
Participants reported that responding to FSV in PNG was a complex issue as there is no guarantee that police, the courts, medical and psychosocial services, or emergency accommodation could or would respond appropriately to victims of FSV. Furthermore, the coordination between services was universally reported to be inadequate. Participants also reported difficulties in sanctioning perpetrators of FSV and advised researchers that many people found FSV to be acceptable—particularly in certain circumstances. Clearly, there are considerable challenges in responding to FSV in PNG, and simply accepting good practice workplace strategies from other contexts may cause further harm in this particular context if they are not modified.
Participants reported that police and the judicial system are often not responsive to victims of FSV either because of their lack of training, conflicting wantok relationships between victims and perpetrators, or due to corruption, affecting victims’ ability to access police protection and to secure interim protection orders (IPOs) to restrain the perpetrator from further harassing or harming the victim. Participants advised that not all police and court staff have the necessary paralegal skills to process IPOs; some courts ask for “lodgment fees” to apply for IPOs even though there are no such fees under the law, and that police often demand “money on the side” to respond even minimally to victims of violence. Despite this uncertain response from the police and the courts, some FSV service providers in PNG and many good practice workplace strategies are strongly in favor of victims of FSV seeking IPOs. However, providing such a recommendation to a victim of FSV may be harmful as there is no certainty that police and courts will assist victims to obtain an IPO and that police will provide protection if an IPO is breached. As such, good practice FSV workplace strategies need to be modified in PNG so that the willingness and ability of the police and courts to respond to FSV in each location are ascertained prior to services and businesses recommending that victims seek IPOs or protection from the police. This recommendation may also have salience in other communities outside PNG where police and the courts are not willing to respond or are ineffective.
Participants reported that there are limited medical, psychosocial, and emergency accommodation services in PNG and that they vary considerably in the quality of care provided. Without doubt, some services provide a high-quality response, but participants suggested other providers may cause further harms. For example, some medical services are staffed by untrained volunteers, there is no accreditation of counseling services in PNG, and some emergency accommodation services require victims of FSV to return to the perpetrator after a 2-week respite because the services do not have any plans to transition victims to longer term accommodation. In some instances, the reason why victims are returned to violent and abusive situations is that these organizations are Christian-based organizations that do not believe in divorce under any circumstance.
Most good practice workplace policies outside of the PNG context are premised on the basis that employers refer employees who are victims of FSV to appropriate support services within the community. It is clear that this workplace strategy is not viable in the PNG context and to refer employees to services which do not exist or that may cause further harm cannot be considered good practice and would be professionally irresponsible. More generally, simply importing strategies modeled on internationally sourced good practice workplace strategies into PNG perpetuates just that. Accordingly, it is reasonable to recommend that businesses ascertain what supports are available to victims of FSV within their given community and, where possible, augment these supports where they can, and at the very minimum do not overrepresent supports available lest employees base their decisions on inaccurate advice, however well-meaning. This is a particularly relevant recommendation in countries where there are no national service standards and where service provision is lacking due to geographic remoteness or due to sociocultural and economic factors.
Participants reported that except in Lae (a provincial capital), there was inadequate coordination between FSV service providers. One participant advised researchers that a client had been “lost” when she was transferred from emergency accommodation to the hospital to seek medical attention and that another woman had been raped on the way to the welfare office. All participants suggested that businesses could play a valuable role in assisting victims to access a relevant service. Some participants gave examples of current practices where businesses provide safe transportation for victims of FSV to access services. Such a role for businesses in coordinating access to services has not been envisioned elsewhere in current good practice workplace strategies. This role does not impose any great cost to businesses and would greatly assist victims of FSV to feel supported when accessing services. It is also consistent with earlier discussion of the ways in which business in PNG looks after their workers in ways not consistent with Western concepts of employer–employee responsibilities.
Many participants called for business to take a greater role in addressing the behavior of employees who are perpetrators of FSV and through counseling, disciplinary action, and/or notifying law enforcement and other authorities and raised some of the difficulties in dealing with perpetrators in the workplace in a culture where FSV is accepted by many and where police protection is limited. Some participants spoke of perpetrators speaking freely about their perpetration of violence and joking about FSV. One participant spoke of the difficulty they faced in disciplining a perpetrator as the perpetrator threatened to “do worse” to his wife if the employer took any action in an environment where police protection is limited. This employer felt a responsibility to protect the victim, even though the victim was not employed by the business, and held confidential discussions with the victim to ascertain and respond to the victims’ wishes in the matter. This case typifies the expanded role that employers in PNG hold, in comparison with many employers in Western contexts and needs to inform workplace strategies in PNG.
Currently, few good practice workplace strategies in any context have explicit mechanisms to address perpetrators in the workplace. Some workplaces attempt to engage bystanders (those who are not perpetrators or victims of violence) to intervene in the violence by supporting the victim, but most implicitly rely on general employment obligations to address perpetration. Bystander approaches are unlikely to succeed in PNG due to the high acceptability of violence. Reliance on employment legislation is also fraught due to the inaccessibility of the labor courts and the legal system generally, which has been described previously. As such, further research is required in PNG to assess how businesses can best manage and/or extend disciplinary procedures to employees who are perpetrators. This type of research may also assist in addressing the gap in current good practice workplace strategies, which on the whole are silent about perpetrators in the workplace.
This research project in PNG on FSV and the workplace has shown that local context is essential in developing effective FSV workplace strategies. The research revealed that participants have a more nuanced understanding of FSV and power than reflected in current good practice FSV workplace strategies implemented elsewhere. The research has also shown that the context in which FSV occurs in PNG is vastly different to that contemplated in current good practice workplace strategies. Therefore, current workplace strategies from other contexts must be modified if they are to form good practice in PNG. There is a need for further research in PNG with those affected to better understand the effects of FSV on the workplace and to develop and implement a contextualized response. It is hoped that this research will not only assist workplaces in PNG but that the methodology of working in collaboration with those affected may be useful in other contexts.
The authors acknowledge the work of key project team members, Amy Luinstra, Sarah Twigg and Lavui Bala (International Finance Corporation [IFC]); and Linda van Leeuwen (Business Coalition for Women [BCFW]), in conducting this research.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: This work was supported by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group (PO 7172765).
Authors’ Note The “Good Practice Review: FSV and the Workplace Strategies Project—Papua New Guinea” and “Participatory Action Research Report: FSV and the Workplace Strategies Project—Papua New Guinea” are reports related to this article.
↵1. The full details of the methodology utilized and the full findings of the research are available in the original reports.
- © The Author(s) 2016
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Shabnam Hameed is a consultant with Factive Consulting, a specialized consultancy, in the areas of gender in the workplace, gender and safety in high-risk industries, and organizational communications and marketing. Shabnam was previously a Senior Researcher at the Gendered Violence Research Network at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia where she provided expert research, consultancy and training services to Australian and international organisations on domestic, family and sexual violence and work.
Jan Breckenridge is an associate professor in the School of Social Sciences and the co-convener of the Gendered Violence Research Network at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia. Jan has undertaken extensive work and research in the areas of trauma, domestic and sexual violence, gender issues and child abuse and has a commitment to action and other participatory strategies of research engagement. Her research provides a focus for her commitment to developing evidence-informed practice in these areas. Jan was the Chief Investigator for the Family and Sexual Violence in PNG Workplaces project and is currently involved in researching employer responses to gendered violence in the workplace in select Australian businesses and organisations.
Paula Bennett is manager of the Gendered Violence Research Network at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia where her responsibilities include strategy development, external engagement and project management for research and consulting related to domestic, family and sexual violence. Paula has a Master of Development Studies from UNSW and previously worked for over 20 years in the Asia Pacific region in the private sector and in higher education where she held senior roles in corporate social responsibility, human resources, communications and general management.
Tracie Mafileo, PhD, is a senior lecturer in the School of Social Work at Massey University, New Zealand. Her teaching areas include social work theory and practice, research methods, cultural diversity, indigenous and Pacific models of practice and Pacific people’s wellbeing; and her research has included Tongan social work, youth development, and HIV prevention in Papua New Guinea. She was deputy vice-chancellor at Pacific Adventist University, PNG when she was a part of the project reported on in this article.
Lalen Simeon has worked as a research manager and senior lecturer at Pacific Adventist University for 23 years, she is a teacher by profession. Her research work in the last 12 years includes use of ICT in Education, youth leadership, women, families and youth in agriculture and small business, Gender Base Violence and SDA response to HIV and AIDS in PNG.
Hennah Steven has been teaching geography for 10 years. She worked as a student lecturer from 2012 to 2014 at Pacific Adventist University (PAU) while completing a research degree. She has graduated with a master’s degree (Master of Philosophy) and is currently working at PAU. Her research interest is in gender issues, social issues and livelihoods that are related to internal migration.