Village Courts roll out plans to protect children and women from abuse
UNICEF and partners review best practices for maintaining peace and harmony in the community
Lae, Papua New Guinea, 28, June 2011 – Around 30 village court officials and representatives from provincial administrations and women leaders from six provinces around Papua New Guinea gathered in Lae, Morobe Province, late last month to map out the Village Court Strategies that will be rolled out in the coming years.
The participants representing Simbu, Eastern Highlands, Milne Bay, East Sepik, Southern Highlands and Enga provinces are engaged in “The Women and Children’s Access to Community Justice (Child Protection) Programme”. This is a community-based child protection programme administered through Papua New Guinea’s village court system supported by UNICEF and other development partners. The programme trains village court officials and magistrates, women leaders, and youths about the rights of women, children, and other vulnerable groups. Village court magistrates and women community leaders learn about their obligations as duty-bearers and commit to actions, in partnership, to meet these obligations. The programme builds the capacity of women and youth to understand and claim their rights.
“ I am very encouraged by the gathering of my colleagues from the provinces to share with each other best practices and their experience which will inform the roll out plan of the village courts in coming years, ‘ said Mr. Keris, Executive Director of the Village Court Secretariat and Land Mediation.
The village court system is the largest government system in the country, with 1414 village courts and over 14,000 officials. The Department of Justice and Attorney General, the government agency responsible for the administration of the village court system, has raised concerns over the high level of violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea.
According to study findings, 75% is a conservative estimate of the percentage of women and children who have experienced violence in Papua New Guinea. The Village Courts Secretariat in partnership with other government agencies, has expressed support for a greater role of the village courts in response to these protection concerns.
Village courts are charged to employ local customary practices to maintain peace and harmony in their communities. In accordance with its international commitments, the Government has developed a modern body of rights-protecting domestic laws and policies, most significantly over the last ten years. Village courts are a critical partner for promoting internationally established equal rights and protections for women and children at the local level. The village courts programme is one such pilot effort to equip stakeholders in village court areas with knowledge about women’s and children’s rights and to begin to reverse the trend of violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea.