By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby
Sex workers have urged the Papua New Guinea government to pass a law to protect them after one of them was recently gang-raped, beaten and left to die on a roadside in the capital of Port Moresby.
One told The National: “Yes, she is a prostitute. We all are. And we have our reasons why we are in this trade.
“But we are also Papua New Guineans. We are also human.”
The sex workers, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their identities not be revealed because they could end up in trouble with the law, said they were forced into the trade not by choice but as a matter of survival.
One said they sold their bodies “for a living out of necessity” knowing there was no law to protect them.
They are afraid to report to police inhumane and cruel acts inflicted on them by men who pay for their services because they can end up in trouble.
“My friend was brutally gang raped. She had to have her [private parts] stitched. She was beaten to the point where she nearly died,” one said.
‘Good Samaritan’ helped victim
She said if not for a “Good Samaritan who found her and rushed her to the hospital”, the co-worker might not be living today to tell her story.
“She can’t even lodge a complaint because prostitution is illegal. We have no rights [protection].
“We can be murdered tomorrow and no one will care because we are prostitutes.
“But [people must remember] that we are also human beings and we are also Papua New Guineans.”
The 24-year-old victim said she was paid to spend an hour with the client.
He took her to a lodge in Port Moresby where eight men raped her. She told of how she called out for help but heard people outside laughing at her.
“No one helped me even though I screamed for help. There were people outside. I could hear them laughing and saying [that I was a prostitute]. Yes, I was paid for one hour with one client only.”
Previous protection bill defeated
“In 2016, a motion to protect sex workers tabled in Parliament by then Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather met strong opposition. It was defeated.
In February this year, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Davis Steven said the position of the law on prostitution in PNG was not clear.
He was waiting for the State Solicitor “to give me specific legal support on matters like that”.
Community Development, Religion and Youth Department acting Secretary Pala Yondi earlier said the department was concerned about sex workers who were abused, assaulted and raped because there were no laws to protect them.
Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands Bishop Rochus Tatamai blamed the increase in sex workers on the current “economic crisis”.
The Pacific Media Centre republishes The National articles with permission.