The government of Papua New Guinea needs to do more to stop “emergency” levels of family violence, campaigning group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.
It says officials often ignore the fact that women across the country endure brutal attacks from their partners.
At the moment the problem is mainly tackled by NGOs and grassroots activists, HRW says.
It has accused the government of not meeting its obligations to protect women and girls from family violence.
The government has yet to respond to the HRW report, which despite its criticisms does give the authorities some credit for taking “initial steps” to combat family violence.
But it also accuses the government of neglecting survivors’ needs for safety, services and justice, and concludes that women often have no option but to live with abusive partners.
The HRW report, Bashed Up, says that while the exact number of women who experience violence at the hands of a partner is unknown, the last comprehensive survey was carried out in 1992 and it found that family violence occurred in more than two-thirds of households.
“Activists say the violence remains pervasive today,” the report says, adding that victims still find themselves ignored by police and courts.
It cites a 2013 study in Bougainville, an autonomous region of the country, where 80% of men who had ever had a partner reported that they had perpetrated physical or sexual violence against them.
The HRW report is based on 46 interviews, including with victims. It makes no statistical claims on the prevalence of family violence in the country but does highlight “systemic problems” in addressing the issue.
It says that while the government deserves praise for developing a strategy to handle gender-based violence – including the formation of a human rights commission – many lives are being devastated in the meantime.
The report calls on the government to implement family protection legislation, increase public awareness of family violence and ensure the police properly investigates crimes.
Campaigners say that steps must also be taken to stop husbands from levelling sorcery accusations against their wives as an excuse to re-marry.