Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – Papua New Guinea’s National Department of Health launched National Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Clinical Guidelines at a December 8 event held at Kaugere Clinic, Port Moresby, as part of 16-days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The National Department of Health developed and revised the guidelines for healthcare workers and family support centers (FSC) to facilitate the provision of treatment, care, and support, as well as referral linkages to non-medical support services for SGBV survivors. The new guidelines, supported by the Governments of the United States and Australia, and in partnership with FHI 360 and the World Health Organization, provide healthcare workers with the necessary skills, knowledge, and information to provide treatment, care, and support for survivors of SGBV.
Gender-based violence remains a key development challenge in PNG. According to a 2015 WHO assessment, approximately 70 percent of women in PNG stated that they had experienced rape or sexual assault in their lifetime — more than twice the global average. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the risk of violence against women and girls while decreasing access to support services and networks. The new guidelines prepare the workforce to reduce SGBV and better care for survivors.
In light of the recently launched of the National Health Plan 2021-2030 with the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind is Everybody’s Business,’ Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS Jelta Wong said, “A key component of the Marape / Basil Government is to promote equal rights even in this day and age when it should be a norm. Our aim is to drive the agenda to set our people’s mindsets to a more conducive outcome.”
U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, Erin E. McKee, thanked the National Department of Health, along with the PNG Coalition of Parliamentarians to End GBV, for their ongoing support for women’s rights and protection. “The United States is committed to empowering women around the world, and promoting the equal rights of women and girls is one of our key priorities in Papua New Guinea. We are proud to partner with national and local government, as well as civil society organizations and development partners, to address gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. Thank you for launching these guidelines, and we encourage your continued urgent action.”
FHI 360 Chief of Party Dr. Ignatius Mogaba said “The SGBV Guidelines will serve as a useful tool for standardizing and improving the quality post-GBV clinical care and support services offered to survivors of SGBV. We are happy to have successfully partnered with the NDoH and other technical partners to finalize the guidelines.”
The guidelines provide healthcare workers with improved understanding of the importance of providing timely access to medical and psychosocial care, as well as skills, knowledge and information required for medico-legal interaction to facilitate the documentation and management of SGBV cases for medical and legal purposes. The guidelines also provide standards for the provision of both integrated medical and psychosocial services for survivors of SGBV, and guidance on safe, confidential, and consented referral pathways between multi-sectoral services for survivors of SGBV.
“The Australian Government congratulates the Department of Health on the launching of these essential guidelines. Ensuring survivors of SGBV receive appropriate care and support by health service providers is a critical part of the referral pathway. Australia recognises that GBV is a complex development challenge, and Australia stands in solidarity with the Government of PNG and all its stakeholders to address the issue. Through the PNG-Australia partnership, Australia is pleased to have been able to support stakeholders in PNG who are leading the way in tackling family and sexual violence,” said Mr. Paul Lehmann, Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea.
“Violence against women has sadly been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only fight it with deep-rooted and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and foster healthy and mutually respectful relationships,” said Anna Maalsen, Acting Country Representative for WHO in Papua New Guinea.
“Preventing GBV and providing care to victims of GBV is of paramount importance for all, especially for children, considering the extremely grave consequences of GBV on children who are affected directly as victims or indirectly as witnesses. I reaffirm UNICEF commitment and readiness to join forces with all partners, to support the effective implementation of these guidelines and other relevant initiatives aimed at ending SGBV in PNG,” said Dr. Claudes Kamenga, Country Representative for UNICEF.
The launch of the national clinical guidelines on SGBV response comes amid increased action and attention for the SGBV epidemic in PNG. In 2018, members of parliament formed the PNG Coalition of Parliamentarians to End GBV and a Special Parliamentary Committee. In 2020, the Committee held the first national summit on ending gender-based violence. In August of this year, the Committee tabled a landmark Report on GBV in PNG in the National Parliament, which included more than 70 recommendations for action by the Government.