World's Most Dangerous Cities: Port Moresby (PNG) BBC Stories

by: BBC Stories

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This scene's a little bit tense.

Tell me a bit about this man. He was punching me with his fist and he broke my ears.

The green house, we'll go in. How many times do you think he raped you? Almost all my life.

What type of people do you usually target?


I'd arrived in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, 100 miles off Australia's northern tip. This place is regularly voted the worst place in the world to live. With one of the highest rape and sexual violence rates in the world, perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. But some victims are taking a stand. Leah, can we go? HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE Leah has taken action to put a restraining order against her husband. He's basically been abusing her for seven or so years. Hopefully, this is the end for you. Yeah, to end violence.

Tell me a bit about this man. Two weeks before I went into my labour, he beat me at my workplace. How badly? I had black eyes. He was punching me with his fist and it broke my ears. I had, with my eyes there was a blood clot formed on this side of my eye. Now it's time to show him that this is not OK, and today is the day. I don't want my children to grow in this violent life. I've got to end the violence now. And I've got to tell my son and daughter that violence against women is not acceptable. The green house, we'll go in. That's the uncle's house. Does he know we're coming?

It's going to be a surprise.

There's a lot of his family around here, and I'm guessing they're not going to be very happy, so I don't know where this is going to go. That's his mum? Yeah.

Hello, come. Leah's husband isn't at home. But his mother can legally sign the restraining order on his behalf. It must be very difficult to have to do this. Yes, it is. But I've got to do it. I...

Yeah. Well done. Well done for being strong. I have tears in my eyes. It shows you how difficult it is to do something like this. You know, this is this lady's family. She's got kids with this guy. And you have to basically go up against people you've known for years. What do you think of her bringing the police here? As a female, I think it's good. It's good that she's...? Yeah, it's good. The majority of the men, they have this mentality where they think women must be just right underneath their feet.

Like Leah, two out of three women here will suffer abuse or violence in their lifetime.

How big is the problem? How many cases have you seen this year? From January to May, we had about 6,000. And those cases are the ones that are reported. And...and unreported, try and imagine. Why are so many women being abused? How can I put it? It's a normal thing. To any man in Papua New Guinea, it's a normal. To hit your girlfriend, your partner, your girlfriend, your wife? Yes.

I've been told that some of the worst perpetrators are the Raskols here. That's the local name for criminals or gangs. And I've been told that quite often, they use rape as gang initiation for new members. They've agreed to meet me, hopefully.

There's about seven guys there, all considerably larger than me.

Let's meet the Raskols.

These are the leaders of the 13 Casino Raskol gang. They're notorious for robbing and raping, and amazingly, they don't care about showing their faces on camera. So is this where we're...we're speaking inside? Yes, yes. OK. This is the way. We're going to wait there. To win their trust, I have to try betel nut, a psychoactive drug used all over Papua New Guinea. Chew the whole thing? Yeah. It doesn't necessarily taste very nice. As you chew, you just spit it out. Oh, it's red. It's red. I've just got to say, I am most definitely feeling different. Sweating quite a lot. Yes. Yes. Yes. What is that? It's um...yeah, yeah, yeah. It's quite... First time. How long does it usually last for?

That is the cutest gun pouch I've ever seen. That is very small. So is this literally, just's a piece of pipe? Yes. It's just a piece of pipe. Has everyone here taken a life?

With the betel nut coursing through me, I was feeling brave enough to ask some tricky questions. I heard that some gangs in Papua New Guinea, as an initiation thing, you... Some young men have to have sex with a woman, kind of, like, rape a woman. Have you heard of this? Yeah, yeah. How normal is that?

Yes. Is that necessary? Do you have to do that?

It's quite hard to get my head around. I've been told that in Papua New Guinea it's reasonably common to occasionally belt your wife to make sure she's... Have you belted your wife before?

What is a belting?

Like punch?

Have you actually shot her in the leg?

Really? I mean, do you, do you, do you love your wives?

You mustn't love her. If you kind of love your wife, why would you belt her?

Do you feel like you're bad people?

Carjacking is their biggest money-maker. What type of people do you usually target?

Hello. I'm Ben. Very nice to meet you. Are you the victim today? Are you the car driver? Yeah. All right. Fantastic. Are you excited? I'll try! All right. Shall we...? I'll follow you guys, follow your lead.

So they're demonstrating to me how they rob women, who they consider very easy targets, of their cars. We have a gunman, we have a machete wielder and then we have a driver. I mean, it's all fun and games now, but it's absolutely terrifying if you're involved in something like this, and it could end up with you losing your life very easily. Is this the car? Yes. The car's coming. That's the car. Go, go, go, go, go! Come on, out, out!

Shock! That is quite...

OK, I'm really shocked. Are you OK? It's really shocking, honestly. It's really shocking. Quite scared? Yeah, it's really, like, real. They said that they target women, like, exclusively. Have you had something like this happen to you? Yeah. Yeah, I did, before, once when I was driving. Is it scary being a lady in Papua New Guinea, cos things like this happen? Yes. Yes, it is.

That was pretty terrifying. Yeah, yeah, that was so fast. Yeah. When we get a vehicle, we don't waste time. Come here, Alex. Come here, Alex.

Yeah, I mean, that was quite the experience. You know, it's all about being strong, being in control. If your wife doesn't listen to you, you punch her in the face, otherwise you're not a man, and that is depressing. In the face of so much male violence, it felt like women in Port Moresby were constantly under threat. But there is help. Safe houses have been set up around the city, where women can seek refuge from abuse. I was meeting Susan.

She's been staying at this safe house for the last two months. Does it make you sad, so many women go through the same thing? Yeah, so many. Most all of the Papua New Guinea women. You honestly think it's nearly all women? Yeah, because most of them, you know, just staying there. They don't come out, they just stay there.

How long was he abusive for? Er, we've been married since 2000 and then, all these years through to 2018, he's been abusing me. What exactly was he doing to you? He just cut my hand, see here. Really? Yeah. 35 stitch. So he slashed it? Yeah. One time he chased me, and I ran. I jump off the window. This leg has been broken, this one came at the back, and the heel went through the front. Like it's turning around, full revolution. How many times do you think he raped you? Almost all my life. Almost all my life. Since we've got married. Did his family ever say anything to him, to stop him? No, they are afraid of him. Everyone's afraid of him. If they want to say something, he would just get up and say, "Shut up, don't talk! That's my property!" He'd actually say, "That's my property," about you? Yeah, as if he owns it, yeah. He sounds like a devil. Yeah.

And it seems that one of the problems is that it's culture, because people use it as an excuse. Yeah, yeah, yeah. When you're talking about culture and customs, most of the women are hurting themself. Like they are in a cage, you see. There's nobody to help them out. What are you planning to do now that you're at the safe house? Going back to my village. Stay with my parents. Find a decent job, look after my kids and just live a normal life like everybody. A free life, free from violence, and abuse and all these things. I really hope... Yeah, I really hope that you get it. I hope so.

This is one of our clients. She is 69 years old. Very nice to meet you. Yeah, so she's Marissa. Because she's 69 years old - safe house, we don't keep women over that age. It's not a nursing home. It's not an old people's home. So we can't keep her. And so I've explained all of that to her, Marissa, so she's leaving today. She had her son-in-law. Her son-in-law was really violent, just physically abusing her. Beating her up, so...yeah. Do you know why? Why was he doing it?

He wanted to have sex with you? Yeah.

Not only having sex with her - he's abusing her every day, belting her up, yeah. Are you scared?

Is he looking for you now? Yeah.

Were you saying that he was abusive not just to you but to other members of the family?

And he was abusive to everyone?

Thank you so much for talking to us. Really helpful. They're taking her to a safe place today. All right. Yeah, I don't really know how to react to this. It feels like they're kind of sending this old woman to her death. She's terrified of this guy, who's not only been torturing her, but he's been torturing the rest of her family, as well. And here lies the problem, is that these safe houses can protect women for so long, but there is always a point that they are going to have to go back and in this case, she is literally going back to hell.

It was only five years ago that Papua New Guinea passed the Family Protection Act, making family violence a crime, punishable by up to two years in prison or a fine of US2,000. It's given hope to women like Janet. Her husband allegedly beat her three days ago, giving her a black eye, so she fled her home. Hello, nice to meet you. I'm Ben. I'm Janet. Er, Janet. This is one of our complainants. Yeah.

Men is always the head of everything, he makes the decisions, he takes, you know... He's in control of the economy of the family, and everything else. So he decides for the family. So this is the culture that we have in Papua New Guinea. It's very strong. It's been inherited from generation to generation to generation. Quite shocking, you know, isn't it? It says, "My husband was punching my head so many times." How often was he doing this? It's been four years now. Every day, we never rest. Hearing the police were after him, Janet's husband arrives. So this guy behind me is Janet's husband. He's turned up to the police station.

I was speaking with Janet, and she was saying you've been quite physical to her. Violent.

Because she has a black eye.

When you say attitude problem, do you just mean she doesn't do entirely what you want her to do? Er...yeah. That's how you treat, like, a dog, if you're a bad owner. She's, like, a human being, isn't she, you know what I mean? Cos maybe she doesn't want do what you say. That's what I don't get. I understand you're a man. Yeah. Does it really matter?


I'm giving him an opportunity to talk.

What are you angriest about?


No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

I didn't assault her.

Janet's husband is charged with domestic violence and is facing a weekend in the city jail, until he can make bail on Monday.

The horrible thing is that Janet still has kids with this guy. He's going to have to be in her life to some degree. That's clearly what she's worried about, and I can understand it. He is potentially going to face justice, but a lot of the damage is already done. She's already been beaten up. Her kids have already saw it. And it's just sad that there are so many people like this in Papua New Guinea. Janet later dropped all charges, when she was reunited with her kids. My time in Port Moresby was coming to an end, but I still didn't fully understand how so many men could treat women like this. My final stop was the biggest jail in the country - Bomana Prison, on the outskirts of the city. I feel like they've let us in to the most beautiful prison in PNG. It's pretty well kept. Well, that's nice!

I'm not going to lie - this is not what I expected when I thought of a prison in Port Moresby. It looks like a summer camp as opposed to a correctional facility.

Very nice to meet you. My name is John. My name is Benjamin. This is the minimum security and most presentable side of the prison where juveniles are held. I arrive during the weekly yoga class, aimed at teaching the inmates new skills. Where does the yoga take place? Is those guys...? Over there. That's a lot of people, isn't it? As most of them are under 18, we weren't allowed to show their faces on camera, but I wanted to know what they were in for. So you've got sodomy, suspected of rape, suspected of rape, suspected of rape. That's right. Murder. Rape. Stealing. Murder. Stealing. Rape. Rape. Penetration. Marijuana. Rape.

Wow, that's quite a lot of people, isn't it? Yep. Do you know the ages of the people convicted of rape? Oh, yes. How old are they?

13? 13, yes. That's so depressing. How long can you actually get in jail for raping somebody?

Two years? OK. Two years. That's really short, isn't it?

If you're wondering how common rape is here, out of the 27 juveniles that they've got in this correctional facility, 12 of them are being accused of some form of rape and the youngest one is 13 years old. And that is just insane.

It seemed like the culture of abuse and violence against women was getting handed down from generation to generation.

On the other side of the prison was the maximum security section. The guards had an inmate they wanted me to meet. I imagine it's going to be a not very nice conversation. How you doing? I'm Ben.

This is Ruben, and he's been sentenced to 12 years in jail. Can you tell me are you here for?

So she was ten. How old were you? That is definitely rape, isn't it? You know, she can't consent if she's ten years old. Yeah. It... Yeah. You are a rapist.

What do you think rape is?

Um, I mean, it is rape, because she's 10. You're 40 years old. She's a child, you're an adult. She doesn't even know what she's doing.

You've done something very wrong. You've probably ruined a ten-year-old girl's life.

I've been here for a few days at this point, and I am massively overwhelmed. Pretty much every single woman I've spoken to has got a story of being beaten or raped. I've spoken to so many men who think that raping women is OK, beating women is OK, and this just takes it to another level. It just seems that there needs to be education on what is acceptable and how to treat women.

More from this creator:
Papua New Guinea has been described as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Some estimates say that 70% of women in PNG will be raped in their lifetime. Ben Zand travels to the capital Port Moresby to meet the men who believe violence against women is acceptable - and those women who say enough is enough. Presented and series produced by Ben Zand Filmed and produced by Alex Nott Executive Producer: Mike Radford #BBCStories #BenZand #Documentary
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