Family protection orders are helping to stop violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a first-of-its-kind study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found.
The two-year research project also found the number of interim protection orders issued varies considerably across different regions.
It is estimated that more than two thirds of women aged 15 to 49 in PNG have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. One third of women recall experiencing this violence in the previous 12 months.
Dr Judy Putt, from the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs and leader of the research project, said most people who were issued interim protection orders felt safer as a result.
“Although domestic violence is a crime, survivors face many challenges in accessing justice. A family protection order can act as a pathway to protection,” Dr Putt said.
The researchers found more than four-in-five applicants interviewed (81.3 per cent) felt safer after being issued a protection order.
A family protection order, also known as a restraining order or domestic violence order, is a tool used across the world to prevent or reduce domestic and family violence. In PNG, this avenue for protection became available to survivors for the first time in 2014 under provisions of the Family Protection Act.
There are two types, the interim protection order, or the IPO, which can provide immediate security. The other is the PO – a protection order that can be imposed for up to two years.
The researchers say there are some key lessons from their study.
These include the critical support to survivors from specialist family and sexual violence services, including safe houses and police. “Having police, family and church support can improve the effectiveness of family protection orders and reduce the risks to victims of domestic violence,” Dr Putt said.
Dr Putt said the findings should be met with “optimism, but also caution”.
“Family protection orders aren’t always effective in protecting survivors of domestic violence,” she said. “Yet, despite the challenges facing all of those that work to ensure their continued safety, there is a sense of confidence that the orders are making a difference.”
The research project was undertaken by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs in conjunction with the University of Papua New Guinea, the PNG University of Technology, Femili PNG, Voice for Change, FHI360 and the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation and a network of local independent researchers in PNG.
A series of three short films were developed as part of the research project, exploring the collaborative approach and findings of the final report and illustrate how FPOs can be viewed at: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV6RuTP9szr-vudxdICls_oAB8FAL25bc
The research project was supported by the Government of Australia in partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea as part of the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Program, the Justice Services and Stability for Development Program and the Pacific Research Program.
Further information about the findings of the project can be found at http://dpa.bellschool.anu.edu.au/news-events/stories/7979/new-research-released-family-protection-orders-papua-new-guinea