Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 33, December 2013

Refracted 'Awareness':
Gendered Interpretations of HIV
and Violence against Women Prevention in Papua New Guinea

Stephanie Lusby

  1. Information delivered via 'awareness' campaigns has historically been regarded as one of the most critical tools for HIV prevention, and in work to prevent the occurrence of violence against women in Papua New Guinea (PNG).[1] Broadly, awareness programs aim to deliver knowledge about how to avoid HIV transmission, where to get tested for HIV and how to access treatment; about the consequences of violence for perpetrators, ways for victims to seek justice, and means of diffusing conflict before violence occurs. Standardised messages are collaboratively authored in international public health, law and justice, and activist settings, combining experiences and knowledge from around the world. These are then appropriated by localised initiatives and communicated to their constituent audiences. The two prevention agendas focused on in this article are often twinned in awareness programs—HIV is spread predominately through heterosexual sex in PNG, and intimate partner violence, be it feared or actual, reduces women's ability to refuse sex or negotiate for safer sex. Additionally, structural and social pressure to conform to hegemonic masculinities may encourage men to be domineering and sexually aggressive in interactions with women that they desire sexually, thus normalising and even privileging violent behaviour.[2] Talking about gender equality, human rights and HIV in the same conversation makes sense, as the problems and their solutions are symbiotic. Focusing on the relative neglect of discussions about masculinity in HIV and violence prevention, this article attends to the processes of appropriation and interpretation of campaign messages, or what Sally Engle Merry refers to as 'vernacularisation.'[3] I look at how 'awareness' messages are refracted through the milieu of people's daily lives by examining an episode where men subverted meanings of campaign messages to reinforce, rather than destabilise, uneven gendered power dynamics. In doing so, I ask what are the discursive changes such messages inadvertently bring about in target communities through the process of vernacularisation? And what do these changes reveal about the default campaign messages and delivery approaches used by prevention programs?
  2. There is a growing body of research and commentary that reflects upon how antiviolence education, including that which is situated within HIV prevention efforts, have tended to focus on working with women over men, and why this must change.[4] Historically, women have been targeted in prevention responses to assist them to gain skills and knowledge to 'become empowered.' That is, to take charge of their sexual and reproductive health, increase their control of and access to finances and other material resources, and to stop violence from occurring in their communities.[5] These initiatives are certainly not without benefit, but are problematic in that they have not been matched with equal efforts to work with men: with potential and actual perpetrators of violence, women's sexual partners and potential collaborators in efforts to stop violence and discrimination.
  3. Citing the work of Janice Ristock and her research into violence in lesbian relationships, Merry notes that over-simplifying discussions about gendered violence creates binaries, 'such as perpetrator/victim, male as batterer/female as passive victim, powerful/powerless—that are too restrictive and heterosexist to understand violence against women.'[6] Violence against women in intimate, family or community settings is the manifestation of multiple, sometimes obfuscated, intersecting factors. Violence against women has always been complicated; however dealing with this complexity in discussions about prevention remains a challenge.
  4. In dominant conversations about violence prevention in PNG, women are encouraged to avoid abuse and protect themselves from violence; men are not taught in equal measure not to rape, neither are they motivated to develop tools and skills to resolve conflict without violence. As Richard Eves writes, 'At least in retrospect, this focus on women seems naïve and it left the masculine as the unquestioned status quo. Its rationale has some similarity to blaming the victim.'[7] That is, by effectively excluding men from dominant conversations about violence prevention, the burden of responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of women.
  5. Nonetheless, the importance of working with men has been recognised at least rhetorically in research, policy and programming around HIV and violence prevention.[8] This is part of a more general call for a rethink of how approaches to prevention predicated on filling a 'knowledge deficit' are attempted.[9] Elizabeth Reid quotes Catherine Campbell and observes that, 'the best-intentioned responses to the HIV epidemic have had little impact.'[10] Reid further notes that most models of responding to HIV, 'move from information to behaviour, from instruction to action, without considering, or pausing to work with, motivation'.[11] This can be extended to talk about efforts to reduce gender inequality in the context of responses to a generalised HIV epidemic: in PNG, awareness conducted as part of the National HIV Response is one of the most important means of communicating antiviolence and gender equality messages to communities.
  6. I argue that HIV and gendered antiviolence education always have some kind of impact in communities, but that those impacts do not necessarily align with what program authors and donors wished to achieve. Once situated within the complex social environments of target communities, messages can be mistranslated in ways that explain or even justify uneven gendered power distribution and even gendered violence. Education for prevention is important, however simply providing information does not guarantee that people will make decisions or change behaviours to those prescribed via awareness communications. The messages nonetheless become incorporated into a spectrum of priorities that determine how people behave, encompassing individual and community ethics, mores, beliefs and desires, all of which are tangled and dynamic.
  7. Merry describes this process as 'vernacularisation,' where transnationally formulated ways of thinking about social justice, or health, are remade to make sense in particular, local socio-cultural contexts. Ideally, when ideas are remade in the vernacular, they maintain the integrity of their core meaning but the way in which concepts are communicated and expressed is translated to make them locally accessible, and eventually indigenised.[12] As I will show, the milieu through which awareness messages are filtered can complicate this process, so that the language of prevention, naturalised in transnational public health and human rights forums, is subverted and re-applied, sometimes with devastating results.
  8. Here, I explore how community and individual priorities have shaped application and understanding of HIV and violence prevention messages, and community motivation to implement change, in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea. First, I provide an overview of HIV and violence against women as issues and as campaign foci in PNG. Following Merry's ethnographic analysis of gender justice meetings at the United Nations, I examine the cultural background of campaign messages about prevention of HIV and violence against women.[13] I elucidate how messages are translated and reformed—vernacularised—so as to be made relevant in new settings, and the various ways this can manifest. I then use the example of a conversation with young men at a sexual health awareness workshop in East New Britain in 2010, to focus particularly on instances where prevention messages have been subverted from their original, intended meanings. This vignette is supported with information collected during ethnographic fieldwork that I conducted in East New Britain between March 2012 and April 2013, where I conducted participant observation in rural, urban and peri-urban field sites, and interviews with a variety of service providers and community members, women and men. I combine insights from this work with Merry's framework of vernacularisation and R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt's concept of hegemonic masculinity[14] to draw down understandings of how masculine identities and community expectations of masculine behaviour shape how prevention messages are interpreted and acted upon in East New Britain. I illustrate how a combination of past approaches to advocacy-based interventions, especially those biased towards addressing women, as opposed to men or whole communities, have left lasting imprints in current prevention practices. Even approaches that are now regarded as outdated by the international community and are as such no longer officially promoted by PNG authorities continue to have influence over how people think about and practice prevention.[15] As a result of prevailing prevention approaches, many men feel alienated from engaging fully in discussions of violence prevention. This alienation may take various forms, from men wanting to actively challenge gender inequality but feeling unsupported to do so, to outright rejection of women's rights to bodily autonomy on the basis of subversive interpretations of 'human rights' and 'safe sex'; interpretations that favour men's 'rights' over women's bodies, and over domestic and public decision making. In their diversity, these interpretations reveal much about the gendering of justice—and injustice—by those who exhibit behaviours that prevention campaigns desire to change. This diversity has thus far not been adequately recognised or addressed by 'awareness' interventions, to the detriment of host communities.

    HIV and violence against women
  9. HIV prevention and prevention of violence against women are distinct from each other as issues and as campaigns, but both the problems and the attempted solutions intersect and act in symbiosis. As Merry explains, unequal distribution of social, cultural and economic power, traversing through gendered sociality, impacts on many women's susceptibility to violence.[16] This can then manifest in their (in)ability to negotiate how and when sex occurs. Unprotected sex, particularly when physically violent and/or forced, reduces women's ability to protect against risk of infection from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).[17] This, combined with women's greater physiological susceptibility to HIV, highlights what Katherine Lepani refers to as 'the gendered contours of the epidemic.'[18] On the other side, a positive diagnosis, or even rumoured diagnosis, of HIV can place people, and particularly women, at risk of violence from their partners and communities, as misinformation and stigma about HIV and AIDS remains strong in many parts of the country.[19] Even where a woman is sure that she contracted HIV from her husband (that is, she had not had any other sexual partners or been in other situations that would place her at risk of infection), she may be frightened to reveal her serostatus for fear that she would be blamed, accused of having sex outside of marriage, and so subjected to violent reprisal from her husband, his extended family or clan members.[20]
  10. For almost three decades, and particularly since 2003, there has been a concerted campaign to address HIV within PNG, from community groups, churches, the National Government, and state, multilateral and philanthropic overseas donors. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the HIV Response: to build legislation to protect those living with or considered to be at higher risk of contracting HIV, to up-grade health facilities and staff skills to assist diagnostic and treatment services for HIV and other STIs, and to improve public understanding of HIV—what it is, how it is contracted, and how to avoid it.[21]
  11. In recognition of the correlation between gendered violence and the risk of HIV infection, 'best practice' models of education for HIV prevention include discussions of the importance of gender equality, one of the key aims of which is to prevent violence against women.[22] These models support and complement mass media campaigns aimed specifically at stopping violence against women, which tend to focus on instructing audiences about the illegality of domestic violence[23] and the importance and moral imperative of upholding human rights for all.[24]
  12. As a stand-alone issue, HIV awareness has been provided with much greater donor, government and community support, and has achieved more audience traction, than violence against women campaigns. Including gender equality as part of providing information about HIV prevention therefore, theoretically at least, broadens participation in a vital discussion for PNG —a country that has an existing high prevalence of violence against women which is broadly regarded to be getting worse.[25]
  13. Recent estimates show that the rate of HIV infection in PNG sits at around 0.9 per cent of the population,[26] far below the high numbers feared ten years ago, which projected that the Papua New Guinean epidemic would reach similar proportions to sub-Saharan Africa.[27] There have been many visible, positive outcomes from the HIV response, such as those achieved in clinical capacity development and public policy. As a result of awareness efforts conducted under the National HIV Response, Papua New Guineans are unarguably more informed about HIV, how it is prevented and how it is treated than they were a decade ago.[28]
  14. Writing about the HIV response in the Trobriand Islands, an area of PNG with a rate of recorded HIV infection comparable to East New Britain Province, Lepani observes that, 'Notwithstanding the indeterminacy of HIV prevalence in the Trobriand population, the discursive presence of the epidemic is palpable.'[29] HIV is haptok (TP: half-talk, shorthand) that rolls easily off the tongue of many in contemporary Papua New Guinea, in varied settings, but what it represents, bodily and conceptually, and how it is interpreted varies greatly.[30] Access to medical care, to HIV testing and treatment, continuity of awareness messaging, and social, cultural, economic and geographic contexts shape how health and illness, sexual agency, and contraception are thought of, and form filters that manifest as, 'the ambiguities that pervade HIV communication.'[31] These ambiguities and refracted meanings make it difficult to measure the precise outcomes and benefits of preventative education campaigns, particularly those that focus on providing general awareness to whole communities.[32] Information is going into communities, but how is it being understood? More to the point, how is it being used?
  15. It is beyond the scope of this paper to consider the 'effectiveness' of awareness on reducing the prevalence of HIV and STI infections in East New Britain. Rather, I look to the broader effects of how HIV prevention messaging has been prioritised as a public health issue, and how messages have been translated from original, internationally recognised forms and then applied by communities, and their impact on gendered relationships in East New Britain.

    Local applications of globalised messages
  16. Sally Engle Merry describes the ways in which, 'new categories of meaning emerge and are applied to social practices around the world' through the international human rights movement against gendered violence.[33] Documents and discourses are shaped at a transnational level, involving actors from governments and non-government organisations representing national and regional populations. Attendance is for those afforded the means to travel to meetings, and who have the accreditation to attend through affiliation with either government or NGO. Full participation in discussions can be limited to those who have the requisite (English) language and literacy skills to engage in a 'transnational legal culture remote from the myriad local social situations in which human rights are violated.'[34] Through extensive processes of negotiation and compromise, governing principles are created, which are then used as the foundation for activists from the transnational to the local, as well as national governments, to redress violations of human rights committed as acts of gender violence.
  17. In order for principles created out of such distinct, transnational settings to make sense in local contexts where gendered violence may be normalised, vernacularised. In order to be effective, vernacularising transnational principles involves a messy and dynamic balancing act that requires technical, sometimes abstracted concepts to be made relevant to localised knowledge sets.[35]
  18. There are a variety of agents—activists, volunteers, government employees—who translate internationally agreed upon ideations of rights-based justice into particularised settings, and inform State and international monitoring agencies of how human rights ideas manifest in the places where they work. Translators move between cultural, geographic and conceptual spaces in a constantly shifting middle ground between transnational principles, national policies and local norms. Merry observes that,

      Translators negotiate the middle in a field of power and opportunity. On the one hand, they have to speak the language of international human rights preferred by international donors to get funds and global media attention. On the other hand, they have to present their initiatives in cultural terms that will be acceptable to at least some of the local community…. These people translate up and down. They reframe local grievances up by portraying them as human rights violations. They translate transnational ideas and practices down as ways of grappling with particular local problems.[36]

  19. HIV awareness is moulded through similar processes of translation and refraction. Holly Wardlow describes the transformations that occur when local HIV educators tasked with delivering awareness, 'do the social and epistemological labour of implementing policies that have been designed elsewhere, often in cosmopolitan centres by experts in a particular field.'[37] Wardlow's examination shows how an HIV trainer at a workshop in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea uses combinations of approved HIV education protocols, information gathered from workshops based around other concerns that the trainer herself has attended, and personally held beliefs about legitimate and illegitimate behaviours to communicate with her audience. The trainer thus creates hybridised understandings of HIV as a virus, the impacts of infection on bodies and lives, and the affect (or desired affects) of fear of transmission on individual and community behaviours.[38] This process of blending and morphing ways of knowing and telling is on-going for those tasked to provide information, but also for their audiences who are both a tool for and a partner in interpreting awareness curricula. Audience members must determine how to apply and use the instruction they have received in their day-to-day lives, and how to scale the new ways of thinking introduced via 'awareness' against their existing knowledge and perspectives.
  20. Merry considers some of the ways such processes can make the understood meanings of education material change from the meanings ascribed by their authors. She describes several examples of local 'translators' working to communicate the importance of upholding cosmopolitan ideas and international laws regarding the rights of women. On being subsumed into new contexts, the messages are hybridised to the extent that the meanings are completely subverted, the word 'rights' then being used to describe and justify women's subjugation.[39]
  21. John P. Taylor writes about how this has manifested in Vanuatu, with the rise of a men's group retaliating against women's rights activism called 'Violence Against Men.' The men involved viewed changes in legislation, in media reportage and in other forms of state action against violence against women, and particularly family violence, to be an assault on men's right to uphold 'traditional' cultural values, or kastom. The men infer that, 'kastom, which accords to relativist standpoints, represents the local containment of women by men; conversely, the modern, which is permeated by understandings of universality, represents the usurpation of male dominance by women, as by forces of globalization.'[40] The transnational language of human rights, adopted effectively by women's rights and anti-violence activists in Vanuatu, is posited as a force of neo-colonialism. 'Violence Against Men' see themselves as standing up to protect their communities' cultural integrity, which they posit as being typified by men's dominance over women. At the same time, the group adopts and subverts the same language of rights, as well as other trappings common to anti-violence against women interventions, evident in the way it organises, the services it provides to members and its target demographic, and the methods used by the group to advocate its position to the government and general public.
  22. Taylor observes that, 'At the centre of this gender debate lies a struggle to define the concept of "rights," or in Bislama, raet…the concept of raet in Bislama does not easily equate to the apparently naturalized terms of Western notions of liberal democracy and individual equality that are implied in the "rights” of "human rights."'[41] Thus, even as the script and practical apparatus of a group purporting to uphold gendered 'rights' may be familiar, it is important to interrogate how and why terms are applied and actions made to uncover the deeper meanings they represent.
  23. Here, I look at similar examples where information provided in an attempt to equitably protect the well being of all members of society is used in ways that cause harm to women in particular. I do so because examining how communities create counter-meanings out of cosmopolitan ideations of legitimate and healthy behaviours can provide important insights into how to foster attitudes that promote prevention of both HIV and violence against women.

    Dominant messages in HIV prevention
  24. Information about HIV prevention is delivered through methods such as mass media campaigns, workshop training, peer education, and community events. Historically, 'awareness' messaging has been focused on the A-B-C of HIV prevention: Abstaining from sex, Being faithful to one partner who you know to be uninfected by HIV, or using a Condom with partner/s whose HIV status is unknown.[42]
  25. This message has combined in behaviour change discourse with the current key prevention campaign slogan used in Papua New Guinea: 'Lukautim yu yet long HIV/AIDS' or 'protect yourself from HIV/AIDS.' This self-focused idea of disease prevention suggests that the priority is to stop one's self from contracting HIV—there is no mention of relational considerations such as, for example, obtaining consent for sex.[43] Although use of the 'A-B-C' model is not mentioned in the current strategic plan from the National AIDS Council it is still a central tenet of how prevention is considered and communicated,[44] and acts as a pro forma 'how to' guide to lukautim yu yet.[45] On the surface, this advice seems pragmatic, geared toward limiting viral transmission occurring through unprotected sex. Such simplicity is seductive; it is also misleading and potentially damaging.
  26. Stacey Leigh Pigg and Vincanne Adams provide an important reminder that the amorality often assumed by or applied to biomedical knowledge is false. They explain that, 'Science, medicine, and technology…generate specific procedures for knowing, manipulating, and managing bodies…an implicit set of moral assumptions about the purposes of sexual relations and the nature of the person is concealed in rational projects of social and medical welfare that give the appearance of moral neutrality.'[46]
  27. Often used with an additional 'D' for 'delaying first sex,' there are a number of reasons why 'A-B-C' is the default HIV prevention lesson, the 'right way' of talking about prevention, in PNG. Deliberately framed as the first acronym most people learn, the A-B-C campaign is easy to remember and easy to repeat. It is also now embedded in the collective psyche, making it hard to re-imagine different ways of communicating prevention messages away from simply stating these epidemiological truths. They are messages, however, that are at the same time didactic and abstract; directives handed down without providing space to consider how they might look against the complexities of relationships and differing levels of personal agency.[47]
  28. Lepani observes that, 'The language of HIV awareness in PNG, and elsewhere, persistently aligns sex with deviance, disease, and death while ignoring the dimensions of sexual desire, consensus, and pleasure.'[48] She later writes that, 'The spectre of AIDS confronts people with moralistic and authoritative judgments about their lives and ways of being.'[49] These comments are perhaps particularly potent in the context of Lepani's work in the Trobriand Islands, where there is a historical, cultural precedent of celebrating sexual exploration and pleasure, within the confines of agreed upon social conventions. The orthodoxy of HIV prevention awareness asks audiences to reconfigure ways that they think about sex and sexuality to focus primarily on an axis of disease risk and prevention, which is underpinned by moralising (and indeed, pathologising) judgements about sex outside of monogamous relationships.
  29. The combined effect of this prevention narrative is that it is everyone's individual responsibility to protect themselves from HIV and that they must do so by behaving in the 'right' way—not having sex, only having one partner or, in what is often implied as a last resort, to use a condom.[50] However, women may be unable to negotiate abstinence with regular partners that they suspect are having unprotected sex outside the relationship—reports of marital rape are common in East New Britain and Papua New Guinea more generally, and many other rapes occur in the home and go unreported.[51] When women would like to use condoms, either as a prophylactic against pregnancy or infection, this can be difficult to negotiate without threat of violence. In a relationship where male dominance is maintained through violence, if attempting to enforce 'A' or 'C' is almost guaranteed to result in a beating, even though 'B' may be outside of her control, a women is presented with a difficult choice: likely, immediate harm or the apparently more abstract threat of HIV, which may be avoided.[52] These dilemmas indicate the complexity of people's sexual and intimate lives through which epidemiological dictums are refracted.
  30. Although these examples describe women attempting to negotiate condom use with men, in my conversations with health workers and in the wider community, there were also many accounts of men, particularly young men, requesting and reporting use of condoms. In monitoring and evaluation reports for donor and government programs, condom uptake in and of itself is often counted as an unequivocally good thing, proof of the positive impact of interventions. It is unarguably extremely important to promote the importance of condom use in preventing HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy in PNG. Against historic and continuing opposition from powerful community and church leaders, local and international activists and practitioners have made considerable and laudable progress in normalising conversations about condom use and sexual health, and making condoms more readily available in East New Britain and nationally.[53] At the same time, there are deeper undercurrents of meaning, informed by context, which can be overlooked through the privileging of quantifiable indicators such as counting condoms to measure program efficacy, particularly when framed in a 'gender-blind' biomedical perspective.[54] As stated above, the awareness message of A-B-C has been interpreted to mean that a sexual encounter (or non-encounter in the case of abstinence) that ticks any one of the acronymic boxes is therefore legitimate and 'good.' However, while condoms can prevent transmission of various infections, they do not guarantee that sex is consensual, respectful or non-violent.

    Condoms and gang rape
  31. In the sexual health project I worked with, it was our usual practice within the team to all sit down and have an informal debriefing session whenever staff returned from the field, sharing stories about successes and problems that came up during their time away. On one occasion, a staff member reported being very pleased with a particular peer educator workshop in a rural village, and by the community attendance at an evening screening of an HIV-prevention themed film shown once the formal workshop proceedings had ended.
  32. After the film screening, there was a facilitated discussion session, held in groups disaggregated by age and gender into categories of older men, young men, older women and young women. The project staff member and a volunteer peer educator led the discussion with the young men. The youths had been enthusiastic participants, and had asked lots of questions. Toward the end of the discussion, a group of youths asked the facilitators if they could get some condoms. Our staff member was very pleased that the youths were so actively and openly making the request, but was also conscious that condoms are widely regarded as very effective fishing lures. As such, the facilitator wanted to find out whether the youths were really getting the message about safe sex, or if they were going to use the condoms to catch fish, so he made a joking double entendre about 'night-fishing' to see what the youths would say. As it turned out, these young men had planned a lainap (TP: gang-rape, group sex) of a young woman to take place later that night. They were unsure that she was klin—that is, free of HIV or other infection—and so wanted to protect themselves and their health.
  33. A female volunteer peer educator who was working in an urban community relayed a similar situation to me, retrospectively this time as the lainap had occurred a few nights before. One of the perpetrators had approached the volunteer, upset and scared because he had just found out that the way in which he and his co-assailants had used condoms during the assault had not been correct, and he and his friends were therefore at risk of infection. They had had only one condom and were rinsing it out in the ocean then passing it to the next man when it was his 'turn.' Again, self-preservation was at the forefront of his concerns, with little thought for the woman and the threat to her health, the ordeal that she had been through or her social standing should the rape result in pregnancy or her own illness.[55] For the community volunteer too, the priority was ensuring that the perpetrators knew how to protect against transmission of STI in the future—the story was told to me in the context of asking for funds from the project I worked for to run an awareness session that night with the rapists about proper use of condoms.
  34. The issue is not that gender equality messages were not, or are not, communicated at a community level, by sexual health and other initiatives, including focused male advocacy campaigns. Rather, the problem appears to be that they are not being communicated in such a way that displaces or destabilises an underlying acceptance of sexual and family violence, even in situations where information about how to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections has been heeded.

    'Gender' in awareness
  35. Discussions of gender inequality in HIV and sexual health awareness normally begin by asking communities to examine how 'gender roles and responsibilities' play out in their lives. This typically means discussing the internationally accepted definitions of English words 'sex' (physiology) and 'gender' (socially defined identities), and how normative gendered roles are defined in the community. The goal of such discussions is to improve the choices, opportunities, safety and agency of those who are marginalised because of their gender identity.[56] Being made vulnerable on the basis of gender is not limited to women, or solely perpetrated by men: as Merry states, 'the meaning of…violence depends on the gendered relationship in which it is embedded.'[57] Thus, acts of violence, and how they are responded to by victims and perpetrators, are caused by and interpreted through gendered identities, shaped by history, class, sexual orientation, race and environment, that are much more varied and complex than a male perpetrator/female victim binary. Nonetheless, in most Papua New Guinean communities, subjugation of, and violence against women is the most visible articulation of gendered inequality. As a result, in PNG as in other parts of the world, programs delivering awareness often use the word 'gender' as a synonym for 'women's issues'.[58] So the discussion about equal distribution of gendered roles and responsibilities becomes almost singularly focused on instructing women about their rights and pointing out injustices they face.
  36. As shown in Taylor's example from Vanuatu, this can result in a backlash from men who feel themselves not only excluded from, but also victimised by conversations that are dominated by talk about women's rights. Taylor observes that, 'The link between ideas of universal "human rights” with visions of an enlightened modernity carries the dangerous connotation that to not subscribe to those values means consignment to the alterity of inhumanity…where "human rights” are apprehended as "women's rights”, it is men who find themselves consigned to that space [of inhumanity].'[59] The intended purpose of discussing the rights of women in Vanuatu was not, of course, to precipitate a women-vs-men competition for dominance. However, when issues are oversimplified to a binary paradigm where women are posited as passive victims and men as violent perpetrators or potential perpetrators, without allowing space to consider the complexities of people's lived relationships and gendered identities, it is easy to see how talk of 'empowering' women (at its heart, a desire to create more just and equitable communities) can be read defensively as a call to subjugate men.
  37. Naming and affirming the rights of women—to justice, to lives that are free from violence, to sexual and reproductive agency, and to equal educational and economic opportunities—is critical to provoking change. As Merry writes, 'The creation of a movement depends on developing a core term that makes sense to people and can be used to understand their experiences…naming the behaviour implies an analysis of what it means and a judgment about whether it was wrong.'[60] However, as with the central tenets of 'A-B-C' messaging, there has been a tendency through awareness initiatives to list such maxims in a very particular and one-sided manner that has skewed discourse and reduced its ability to motivate communities to move away from attitudes that normalise or even support violence. In order for conversations about gender equality and non-violence to contain adequate information that would allow meaningful action to be made possible, we need to talk about why men commit acts of violence, and how to uphold men's rights to move outside of prescriptive gender roles without their community casting aspersions on their masculinity or character. Moreover, these conversations need to be held with men, rather than about them or around them.[61] According to the recent review of AusAID involvement in HIV interventions in PNG, expansive and holistic conversations about closing gaps in gender equality remain uncommon in prevention programming and discourse.[62]

    Causality and blaming
  38. One of the more common themes in conversations about causes of gender inequality and violence against women is to talk about tradition or kastom, and 'modernity' as dichotomised categories of influence. Merry describes how human rights discourse can echo tropes from colonialism, where transnational models of intervention are tacitly posited as an enlightened, progressive modernity against a backwards 'ancient tradition' of localised culture.[63] Conversely, as in Taylor's example, a monolithic and homogenous 'force of globalisation' can be held up as the destroyer of social bonds and historic-cultural ways of organising communities and meting out justice.[64]
  39. Both modernity and kastom have been erroneously used at various times as the reason why women get beaten in their homes, sexually assaulted in public spaces and disenfranchised across PNG.[65] The reality is that we cannot 'blame' one or the other: while unequal gendered relations and violence of many forms may have roots in the social and cultural norms of the past, contemporary articulations of gendered violence, physical and structural, take influences from a variety of modern, and local and introduced historical sources.[66]
  40. Internationally, changing gender roles and increased opportunities for women in terms of education, paid labour and leadership positions often challenge what are held as 'traditional' or remembered ideas of hegemonic masculinity, where men control resources and decision-making authority within both households and communities. As Margaret Jolly writes, citing the work of R.W. Connell, 'Hegemonic masculinities tend to follow the privileged scripts of culture, nation, and heterosexual desire… the weight of the past moulds masculine being, but in changing present practices it is remembered, both re-embodied and recollected by individual subjects.'[67] In the face of pressure from legislation, activism and appeals to rights-based morality to reconsider gendered power divisions, and to condemn violent expressions of masculine dominance, remembered ideals of hegemonic masculinity may be held up as bastions of cultural integrity that should be maintained.[68]
  41. Writing of research into men's involvement in HIV prevention in South Africa, researchers from the University of California, University of Cape Town and the Sonke Gender Justice Network note that, although some men have recently embraced changing gender roles, others have retaliated by 'enacting "hypermasculinity,” engaging in violence, and detaching from family life to seek self-worth and status in all-male contexts.'[69] In East New Britain too, evolving social, cultural and economic contexts have shifted the nuanced interpersonal and community power dynamics between and within networks of men and women. These dynamics shape how men are seen, how they see themselves, and how people treat women and men who do not conform to hegemonic definitions of legitimate gender roles.[70]
  42. Shari L. Dworkin, Christopher Colvin, Abbey Hatcher and Dean Peacock stress that there are 'diverse and ambivalent reactions to changes in gender relations,' the nuances of which are crucial to understanding future pathways for HIV and violence prevention.[71] However, in community awareness programs implemented in PNG, discussions of gender inequality remain tacitly framed as 'men versus women,' where all women are posited as being in favour of equality and where all men need to be convinced of its value. The truth is, of course, more complex, with much heterogeneity in how people think of and act upon legitimate and illegitimate behaviour for men and women.
  43. In public spaces, the idea of gender equality and communities that are free from violence are commonly and frequently acknowledged as very desirable, even critical to modernisation and economic development. But in private lives, in conversations and conduct that play out inside families and peer groups, gendered inequality and violence may be rationalised and tacitly sanctioned, by men and women, in ways that from the inside seem normal and even banal.[72] These have proved difficult to infiltrate and shift.
  44. For instance, there are many men who hold progressive views about gender equality and who work to bring about positive changes in their families and communities. As with attitudes that rationalise violence, the perspective of these men has been shaped by different influences, including interpretations of kastom that focus on maintaining respect and community cohesion, Christian teachings about love and honour, and information received through awareness messaging. Men that I spoke to during field work in East New Britain said that they simply do their best to be a rait man or man i gat gudpela pasin (TP: a good man; a man who conducts himself well). That is, they try to set a good example by doing things like helping their wife with the laundry or to take care of sick children, and to speak out against inequality when they see it. Other men work actively in more formalised roles with NGOs as volunteer advocates, trying to educate others about how to put an end to gendered inequality and particularly violence against women. According to practitioners in East New Britain who work with victims and perpetrators of family violence, male advocates for gender justice can be powerful catalysts for change, a sentiment that echoes findings from research and program experience in PNG and overseas.[73]
  45. At the same time, pervasive stereotyping of 'strong' men as dominating, aggressive and violent has meant that advocates can face pressure from the community—including from their wives, girlfriends and other family members—to attempt to conform to the hegemonic ideals of masculinity. R.W. Connell and James Messerschmidt write that, 'hegemonic masculinities can be constructed that do not correspond closely to the lives of any actual men. Yet these models do, in various ways, express widespread ideals, fantasies and desires.'[74] In East New Britain, reverberations of historic practices where male leaders and spiritual figures were permitted to violently subjugate—'discipline'—women,[75] combine with other selectively interpreted and remembered customs such as bride price,[76] and can be heard in contemporary references to men's cultural or traditional dominant role over women. These are imbricated with elements of the postcolonial present, such as Christian teachings about 'wifely submission,' and popularised Hollywood images of macho heroes who are celebrated for their acts of violence and philandering, to create a conception of masculinity that has so far proven difficult to supplant.[77]
  46. Frustrated women working as anti-violence campaigners related stories to me of men who, having attended workshops on preventing violence against women, then began to publically challenge stereotyped gender roles by assisting their partners with childcare or housework, and talking out against violence. However, many reverted back to previous patterns of inequitable and even violent behaviour shortly after the workshop, once they were back in their home villages.
  47. It is problematic to assume that attendance at a single workshop, without on-going support and education, will enable men to radically change how their families and communities organise and relate. As Lepani writes in relation to HIV education, there is a 'need for sustained communication, once initial "awareness” is delivered, to enable the ongoing process of knowing.'[78] The 'process of knowing' is one that is deep, discursive, experimental and continuous. Thus, even where terminology and concepts are learned and appropriated by participants, this is not enough to alter how they construct relationships and 'do' masculinity.[79] Activists that I spoke to reported that many participants blamed their backsliding on community reactions to their attempts at behaviour change. Some had been heckled by peers in the community who laughed them down in public, with comments said like 'yu laik painim wok, o?' [TP: are you looking for a job?]. This was said as a satirical reference to the perceived high number of paid positions for people to conduct awareness for donor and government programs, and a sarcastic comment on the motivations of advocates. Merry has observed similar reactions in men convicted of partner abuse in male offender workshops in Hawai'i. Participants mocked, joked and made other expressions of resistance both as a way of rejecting accusations that they did anything wrong in abusing their wives or girlfriends, and also to challenge, 'the elite, white identity of the program that appears feminized to many of these working-class men.'[80] Thus, rejection of appropriate legal mandates formed around human rights ideas may be framed as rejecting 'western' privilege and neo-colonialism in order to hold onto the supposed 'cultural integrity' of hegemonic masculinity.
  48. If they did not feel that they had support from other advocates or people in the community, many East New Britain men stopped talking out against violence. Others claimed friends and family members, and even spouses and other sexual partners, had criticised them for being unmanly or embarrassing. Some men, whose wives were said to be acting as a bikhet (TP: disobedient) or being 'unfaithful,' were ridiculed as not being able to manage their household, and so retaliated against their wives to regain face with their peers, and power in their houses. Peer or social pressure is not—is never—an excuse for violence against women or indeed against anyone, any more than invocations of tradition. As important as it is to refuse such excuses, it is also imperative that we understand how these pressures are reinforced, and ask communities to interrogate and explain why they are upheld. Doing so is vital to finding the thread that will unravel the pervasive inequality that allows violence against women to continue. It can only happen by engaging with men in forums where they feel free to talk, and are amenable to listening.

  49. Dworkin, Colvin, Hatcher and Peacock write that 'most HIV researchers have not spoken directly with men, but rather, speak about men.'[81] The same could be said about research into violence against women. Listening to women's voices and experiences is essential, but by limiting the input of men, there is a tacit reinforcing of gendered inequality as a 'women's issue.' Existing programs that work to strengthen women's economic and resource independence, to support them to report and where necessary remove themselves from violent circumstances, and to recognise family violence as abuse rather than legitimising it as discipline are indispensable; but they are only one component of possible solutions.
  50. In order to address how inequality plays out through gender, those working for change must become cognisant of both allies and their foes. This means moving beyond binary generalisations about men and women, or blaming abstract notions of 'tradition' or 'modernity' for destructive behaviours, to have difficult conversations with whole communities about facilitating holistic and positive changes. To do so, there is great need to pay attention to diversity in masculine and feminine identities, and in how equality and justice are envisaged and valued, and therefore how the meanings of prevention messages that are provided in broad brush strokes are being refracted and applied in contemporary Papua New Guinea.


    [1] Gendered inequality can manifest as physical violence, including sexual violence, and other forms of abuse, including emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse, or financial manipulation. Discrimination and abuse that is defined along gendered lines does not affect only women, and is not perpetrated only by men: gender identities are not binary, and so neither is violence that has been catalysed or rationalised by gendered power dynamics. However, in my experience of discussions about prevention of HIV and 'violence against women' in Papua New Guinea, violence is most commonly used to refer to physical abuse. I therefore refer to the same, narrow definition in this article, and use 'gender inequality' to encompass other articulations of gendered violence as directed toward women. I acknowledge discrimination that is suffered by people who were not born female (even if they identify as women) in Papua New Guinea on the basis of gender, but do not have the scope to explore their experiences in this article. See Richard Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century: How to address violence in ways that generate empowerment for both men and women, Report for Caritas Australia, 2006, online:, accessed 10 March 2011; Sally Engle Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice, Chicago: Universtiy of Chicago Press, 2006; Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Phillipe Bourgois, 'Introduction: making sense of violence,' in Violence in War and Peace, ed. Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Phillipe Bourgois, Oxford: Blackwell, 2004, pp. 1–32; UNAIDS, UNAIDS Terminology Guidelines October 2011, New York: UNAIDS, 2011, online:, accessed 27 February 2012

    [2] Richard Eves, 'Masculinity matters: men, gender-based violence and the AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea,' in Civic Insecurity: Law, Order and HIV in Papua New Guinea, ed. Vicki Luker and Sinclair Dinnen, Canberra, ANU E-Press, 2010 pp. 47–80, online:,+Order+and+HIV+in+Papua+New+Guinea/5631/ch02.xhtml, accessed 28 November 2013; Fiona Hukula, 'Conversations with convicted rapists,' in Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea, ed. Margaret Jolly and Christine Stewart with Carolyn Brewer, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2012 pp. 197–212, online:, accessed 28 November 2013.

    [3] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence.

    [4] AusAID, Violence Against Women in Melanesia and East Timor: A Review of International Lessons, Canberra: AusAID Office of Development Effectiveness, 2007, online:, accessed 6 December 2012; Shari L. Dworkin, Christopher Colvin, Abbey Hatcher and Dean Peacock, 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa: lessons for working with men and boys in HIV and antiviolence programs,' Gender and Society, vol. 26, no. 1 (2012): 97–120; Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Alan Greig, Aparna Basnyat and James Lang, Men and the Prevention of Gender-based Violence: A Conceptual Framework for Policy Change, Bangkok: UN Asia Pacific Regional Programme: Interagency Gender Working Group, 2010.

    [5] For a discussion of problems associated with application of the word 'empowerment' in gender equality initiatives in Papua New Guinea, see Martha Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and the problem of Millennium Development Goal No. 3,' in Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea, ed. Margaret Jolly and Christine Stewart with Carolyn Brewer, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2012 pp. 239–66, online:, accessed 28 November 2013.

    [6] Sally Engle Merry, Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 27–28 (epub version).

    [7] Eves, 'Masculinity matters,' p. 48.

    [8] AusAID, Violence Against Women in Melanesia and East Timor; AusAID (Cindy Clarkson, Emily Rudland, Katherine Lepani and Marjorie Andrew), Responding to Crisis: Evaluation of the Australian Aid Program's Contribution to the National HIV Response in Papua New Guinea, 2006–2010, Canberra: AusAID Office of Development Effectiveness, Australian Government, 2012; Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Eves, 'Masculinity matters'; Dworkin, Colvin, Hatcher and Peacock, 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa'; Carol Jenkins, HIV/AIDS, Culture and Sexuality in Papua New Guinea, Manila: Asian Development Bank, 2006; Katherine Lepani, 'Mobility, violence and the gendering of HIV in Papua New Guinea,' in TAJA: The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 19, no. 2 (2008): 150–64; Ione Lewis, 'How is HIV transmission in PNG influenced by violence against women and attitudes towards condoms?' Catalyst, vol. 39, no. 2 (2009): 29–55; Naomi MacPherson, 'SikAIDS: deconstructing the awareness campaign in Rural West New Britain, Papua New Guinea,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 207–24; NACS (PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat), Papua New Guinea National HIV and AIDS Strategy 2011–2015, Port Moresby: PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat, 2010.

    [9] Vincanne Adams and Stacey Leigh Pigg, Sex In Development: Science, Sexuality and Morality in Global Perspective, London: Duke University Press, 2005; Catherine Campbell and F. Cornish, 'Towards a "fourth generation" of approaches to HIV/AIDS management: creating contexts for effective communty mobilisation,'AIDS Care, vol. 22, special edition 2 (2010): 1569–79; Shari Dworkin and A. Ehrhardt, 'Going Beyond "ABC" to Include "GEM": critical reflections on progress in the HIV/AIDS epidemic,' American Journal of Public Health, vol. 97, no. 1 (2007): 13–18; Amy Kaler, 'AIDS-talk in everyday life: the presence of HIV/AIDS in men's informal conversation in Southern Malawi,' Social Science & Medicine, vol. 59, no. 2 (2004): 285–97; Jenkins, HIV/AIDS, Culture and Sexuality in Papua New Guinea; Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and the problem of?Millennium Development Goal No. 3.'

    [10] Elizabeth Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a woman,' State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Discussion Paper 4 (2011), Canberra: the Australian National University, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, p. 1, online:, accessed 28 November 2013.

    [11] Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a woman,' p. 12.

    [12] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence; Sally Engle Merry, 'Transnational human rights and local activism: mapping the middle,' American Anthropologist, vol. 108, no. 1 (2006): 38–51.

    [13] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence.

    [14] R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, 'Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept,' in Gender & Society, vol. 19, no. 6 (2005): 829–59.

    [15] Katherine Smith, 'Gender operationalised? Understanding the NGO gender response to Papua New Guinea's cholera crisis,' Grounding Travelling Concepts: Dialogues with Sally Engle Merry in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, issue 33 (December 2013), online:

    [16] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence; Merry, Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective.

    [17] Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a woman.'

    [18] Lepani, 'Mobility, violence and the gendering of HIV in Papua New Guinea,' p. 151.

    [19] Lawrence J. Hammar, 'Fear and loathing in Papua New Guinea: sexual health in a nation under siege,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 60–79; NACS, Papua New Guinea National HIV and AIDS Strategy 2011-2015.

    [20] Amnesty International, Papua New Guinea: Violence Against Women: Not Inevitable, Never Acceptable, Port Moresby: Amnesty International, 2006, AI Index: ASA 34/002/2006; AusAID, Violence Against Women in Melanesia and East Timor; Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a woman.'

    [21] AusAID, Responding to Crisis; NACS, Papua New Guinea National HIV and AIDS Strategy 2011–2015.

    [22] AusAID, Responding to Crisis; World Health Organization, Integrating Gender into HIV/AIDS Programmes in the Health Sector: Tool to Provide Responsiveness to Women's Needs, Geneva: WHO Press, World Health Organization, 2009, online:, accessed 6 December 2012.

    [23] This article has not focused on law and justice responses to violence against women in Papua New Guinea and how these fit with prevention efforts from the health sector. Police, courts and legislation play a vital role in deterring and preventing violence against women, and research participants throughout my fieldwork discussed legal responses to violence against women and how they played out. Men stated that they thought that if there was a greater risk of being arrested, charged and incarcerated for acts of sexual and domestic violence than is currently the case, they would be less likely to commit violent crimes. Others claimed that there had been visible arrests and punishments metered out in their communities, which had reduced incidents of violence, statements which were supported in interviews with police officers.

    For discussions on the history and potential future roles of law and justice agents in violence against women responses see: AusAID, Violence Against Women in Melanesia and East Timor; Christine Bradley, Final Report on Domestic Violence, Port Moresby: Papua New Guinea Law Reform Commission, Report #14, 1992, online:, accessed 6 December 2012; Human Rights Watch (Zama Coursen-Neff), Making Their Own Rules: Police Beatings, Rape and Torture of Children in Papua New Guinea, New York: Human Rights Watch, 30 August 2005, online:, accessed 20 October 2011; Margaret Jolly and Christine Stewart with Carolyn Brewer (eds), Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2012, online:, accessed 28 November 2013; Vicki Luker and Sinclair Dinnen (eds), Civic Insecurity: Law, Order and HIV in Papua New Guinea, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2010, online:, accessed 28 November 2013; Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and the problem of Millennium Development Goal No. 3.'

    [24] Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC), Wife Beating is a Crime, IEC Pamphlet, Port Moresby: Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, n.d.

    [25] Amnesty International, Papua New Guinea: Violence against Women; Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and thepProblem of?Millennium Development Goal No. 3'; UNDP, International Human Development Indicators: Gender Inequality Index 2011, online:, accessed 6 December 2012.

    [26] Angela Kelly, Martha Kupul, Wing Young Nicola Man, Somu Nosi, Namarola Lote, Patrick Rawstorne, Grace Halim, Claire Ryan and Heather Worth, Askim na save (Ask and understand): People Who Sell and/or Exchange Sex in Port Moresby: Key Quantitative Findings, Sydney: Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research and University of NSW, 2011, online:,_Kupul_M,_Man_WYN,_et_al_(2011)_Askim_Na_Save_(Ask_and_Understand)_People_Who_Sell_and_Exchange_Sex_in_Port_Moresby.pdf, accessed 24 March 2012.

    [27] AusAID (Centre for International Economics), Potential Economic Impacts of an HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Papua New Guinea, Canberra: AusAID, Australian Government, 2002, online:, accessed 6 December 2012; NACS (PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat), Papua New Guinea Country Report on the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) January–December 2002, Port Moresby: Papua New Guinea National AIDS Council Secretariat, 2003.

    [28] Kate Butcher and S. Martin, Independent Progress Review of PNG Australia Sexual Health Improvement Program (PASHIP), 28 April 2011, Canberra: AusAID Health Resource Facility, 2011; NACS, Papua New Guinea National HIV and AIDS Strategy 2011–2015; Lisa Natoli, Geraldine Wambo, Rebecca Gabong, Ellen Kavang, Sakaia Luana, Stephanie Lusby, Hadlee Supsup and Eleanor Jackson, Mobilising Communities for Sexual Health Improvement in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, Conference poster, Sydney: Australian Sexual Health Meeting, October 2010.

    [29] Katherine Lepani, Islands of Love, Islands of Risk: Culture and HIV in the Trobriands, Nashville: Vanderbuilt University Press, 2013, p. 32.

    [30] Tok Pisin (abbreviated here as TP) is a Melanesian pidgin language, and an official language of Papua New Guinea. It is commonly spoken throughout the country, including in East New Britain. Interviews and discussions conducted for this research were conducted in Tok Pisin and in English.

    [31] Lepani, Islands of Love, Islands of Risk, p. 35.

    [32] AusAID, Responding to Crisis.

    [33] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 1.

    [34] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 1.

    [35] Merry, 'Transnational human rights and local activism: mapping the middle.'

    [36] Merry, 'Transnational human rights and local activism: mapping the middle,' p. 42.

    [37] Holly Wardlow, 'The task of the HIV translator: transforming global AIDS knowledge in an awareness workshop,' Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, vol. 31, no. 5 (2012): 404–19, p. 406.

    [38] Wardlow, 'The task of the HIV translator.'

    [39] Merry, 'Transnational human rights and local activism: mapping the middle.'

    [40] John P. Taylor, 'The social life of rights: 'gender antagonism', modernity and raet in Vanuatu,' TAJA: The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 19, no. 2 (2008): 165–78, pp. 171–72.

    [41] Taylor, 'The social life of rights,' p. 176.

    [42] Hammar, 'Fear and loathing in Papua New Guinea; Lepani, 'Mobility, violence and the gendering of hiv in Papua New Guinea'; McPherson, 'SikAIDS.'

    [43] Eves, 'Masculinity matters.'

    [44] NACS, Papua New Guinea National HIV and AIDS Strategy 2011–2015.

    [45] McPherson, 'SikAIDS.'

    [46] Adams and Pigg, Sex in Development, p. 2; Rebecca Monson, 'Vernacularising political participation: strategies of women peace-builders in Solomon Islands,' Grounding Travelling Concepts: Dialogues with Sally Engle Merry in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, issue 33 (December 2013), online:, accessed 28 November 2013.

    [47] David Dickinson, Changing the Course of AIDS: Peer Education in South Africa and its Lessons for the Global Crisis, New York: Cornell University, 2009; Hammar, 'Fear and loathing in Papua New Guinea'; Katherine Lepani, 'Fitting condoms on culture: rethinking approaches to HIV prevention in the Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 246–66; Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a Woman.'

    [48] Lepani, 'Mobility, violence and the gendering of HIV in Papua New Guinea,' p. 152.

    [49] Lepani, Islands of Love, Islands of Risk, p. 39.

    [50] Lepani, 'Mobility, violence and the gendering of HIV in Papua New Guinea.'

    [51] Amnesty International, Papua New Guinea: Violence against Women; Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a Woman.'

    [52] Catherine Campbell and F. Cornish, 'Towards a "fourth generation" of approaches to HIV/AIDS management: creating contexts for effective communty mobilisation,' AIDS Care, vol. 22, special edition 2 (2010): 1569–579; Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Lepani, 'Mobility, violence and the gendering of HIV in Papua New Guinea'; Lepani, 'Fitting condoms on culture'; Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a woman.'

    [53] Butcher and Martin, Independent Progress Review of PNG Australia Sexual Health Improvement Program (PASHIP); NACS, Papua New Guinea National HIV and AIDS Strategy 2011–2015; Natoli et al., Mobilising Communities for Sexual Health Improvement in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

    [54] Adams and Pigg, Sex in Development; Dworkin and Ehrhardt, 'Going beyond ABC to Include GEM'; Eves, 'Masculinity matters.'

    [55] Fiona Hukula provides an account of how some convicted rapists in Papua New Guinea justify assaults, claiming peer and family pressure induced them to participate in gang-rapes. See Hukula, 'Conversations with convicted rapists.'

    [56] Merry, Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective.

    [57] Merry, Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective, p. 3.

    [58] Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and the problem of?Millennium Development Goal No. 3.'

    [59] Taylor, 'The social life of rights,' p. 177.

    [60] Merry, Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective, p. 38.

    [61] Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Dworkin et al., 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa.'

    [62] AusAID, Responding to Crisis, p. 105.

    [63] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 256.

    [64] Taylor, 'The social life of rights.'

    [65] For a discussion of how this dichotomy has played out in anthropological literature written about Papua New Guinea since the 1980s, see Margaret Jolly, 'Introduction— engendering violence in Papua New Guinea:?persons, power and perilous transformations,' in Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea, ed. Margaret Jolly and Christine Stewart with Carolyn Brewer, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2012, pp. 1–46.

    [66] Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Dworkin et al., 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa'; Jolly, 'Introduction'; Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and the problem of?Millennium Development Goal No. 3'; Merry, 'Transnational human rights and local activism: mapping the Middle'; Monson, 'Vernacularising political participation: strategies of women peace-builders in Solomon Islands;' Anna-Karina Hermkens, '"Rights blong mere?" Framing human rights and gender relations in Solomon Islands,' in Grounding Travelling Concepts: Dialogues with Sally Engle Merry in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, issue 35 (December 2013), online:

    [67] Margaret Jolly, 'Moving masculinities: memories and bodies across Oceania,' The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 20, no. 1 (2008): 1–24, p. 5.

    [68] Connell and Messerschmidt, 'Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept'; Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Taylor, 'The social life of rights.'

    [69] Dworkin et al., 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa,' p. 100.

    [70] Connell and Messerschmidt, 'Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept.'

    [71] Dworkin et al., 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa,' p. 100.

    [72] Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant, 'Symbolic violence,' in Violence in War and Peace, ed. Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Phillipe Bourgois, Oxford: Blackwell, 2004, pp. 272–74; Dickinson, Changing the Course of AIDS; Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence; Merry, Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective; Reid, 'Reading generalised HIV epidemics as a woman.'

    [73] Eves, Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century; Greig, Basnyat and Lang, Men and the Prevention of Gender-based Violence; Sonke Gender Justice Network (Patrick Madden), 'One man can provide care: small steps to success,' Sonke Gender Justice Network website, Johanessburg and Cape Town: Sonke Gender Justice Network, 2012, online:, accessed 28 November 2013; Interagency Gender Working Group (Margaret E. Greene and Andrew Levack), Synchronising Gender Strategies: A Cooperative Model for Improving Reproductive Health and Transforming Gender Relations, Washington: USAID, 2010.

    [74] Connell and Messerschmidt, 'Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept,' p. 838.

    [75] Cyndi Banks, Women in Transition: Social Control in Papua New Guinea, Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1993.

    [76] Across East New Britain, as in other parts of Melanesia, the postcolonial meanings and consequences of bride price, or baim meri ceremonies (as they are almost universally referred to in the more populous areas of Gazelle, Kokopo and Rabaul that are dominated by the Tolai ethnic group) continue to shift. The cost of bride price, in terms of tambu (Kuanua: shell money) and legal tender has risen over past decades, provoking some comment that the process is overtly commoditised and should be abandoned. Aside from the financial stress of fulfilling kastom obligations, high cost is used as a justification for violence and marital rape by some men. Conversely, in relationships where bride price is yet to be paid, can exacerbate a woman's grievance against her violent partner—'you have no right to hit me, you haven't even paid brideprice yet.' Nonetheless, core elements of bride price ceremony such as reciprocity and cementing ties between communities and families are still present. Holly Wardlow provides an eloquent exploration of contemporary changes in bride wealth/bride price among the Huli of the Southern Highlands. Many of her observations are relevant for how bride price also manifests in East New Britain communities. See: Holly Wardlow, 'Chaper 3: "I am not the daughter of a pig!"': The changing dynamics of bridewealth,' in Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in a New Guinea Society, Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006, pp. 99–133.

    [77] Eves, 'Masculinity matters.'

    [78] Lepani, Islands of Love, Islands of Risk, p. 34.

    [79] Macintyre, 'Gender violence in Melanesia and the problem of Millennium Development Goal No. 3'; Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 189.

    [80] Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence, p. 191.

    [81] Dworkin et al., 'Men's perceptions of women's rights and changing gender relations in South Africa,' p. 115.


Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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