Village Court (VC) officials in PNG are well respected in their communities, work tirelessly in extremely challenging conditions and are the face of the justice system for rural Papua New Guineans. Given the range of cases that they preside over, training plays a key role in improving their ability to perform their responsibilities. They also often mediate on cases of family and sexual violence (FSV), especially since under the Family Protection Act (FPA) they have powers to issue protection orders for survivors of violence.
The Department of Justice and Attorney General through support from the PNG-Australia Partnership, trained 30 VC officials in Oro on the application of the FPA, including issuing of Interim Protection Orders (IPOs). As a result of this training, VC officials are now intervening to assist FSV survivors.
Kokoda VC clerk Miriam Ombari says the training has enabled her court to grant IPOs to two FSV survivors so far, although she acknowledges there is a need for more awareness raising in her community.
Many communities and survivors of violence are not aware that Village Courts have the power to issue these orders, which prohibit perpetrators from going near complainants for up to 30 days.
“There is a need in the community for our people to be educated on the issue of family violence to empower survivors to access justice through the Village Courts,” Ms Ombari said.
Ms Ombari, a mother of five with a decade of experience in the Village Court system, says domestic violence has affected many people in her community and adds she is grateful that the FPA has elevated the village courts system to another level.
Under the Family Protection Act, those breaching IPOs can be liable for fines up to K10, 000- or three-years imprisonment.
The same sentiments were shared by the Kokoda Village Court Chairman Chris Jovu, who attended the training and confirmed that most rural communities were not aware of the FPA and their role in issuing IPO’s. His court is planning to raise awareness to help reduce levels of family and sexual violence and empower survivors to access justice and protection.
Feature Pic: Kokoda Village Court Chairman Chris Jovu (left) and Court Clerk Miriam Ombari said the success of issuing two IPOs to perpetrators of domestic violence is a positive result of Village Courts Officials receiving intensive training to enforce the Family Protection Act. Credit: AHC Port Moresby