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The gas and mining industries take on gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea

Katherine C. Heller's picture
Photo: Tom Perry/World Bank

For many, the connection seems strange at first. What do gas and mining have to do with women’s economic and social empowerment, let alone gender-based violence? The reality is that in many extractive industries areas money from extractives flow predominantly to men. This can lead to adverse results: men have more say over how benefits are used; men have more access to related jobs, and the associated increase in available cash allows them to take second wives (which can in many cases cause violence in the home between wives); some men leave their families for jobs in the industry, while some use cash for alcohol or prostitution. 

These changes and stresses – also present when the benefits from mining don’t materialize as expected - can increase the risk of family and sexual violence, especially in fragile countries like Papua New Guinea (PNG).   

 

 
Rates of gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are some of the highest in the world. Studies estimate that 70% of women have experienced rape or assault. Other studies indicate that nearly 60% of men reported that they had participated in rape.  On the island of Bougainville, one in five women’s first experience of sex is rape and one-third of men had experienced sexual abuse as children. And this takes place in an environment where 80% of people live in remote rural areas, where medical, police, and judicial services have difficult access, and survivors of abuse often have few alternatives to staying in their communities and homes where the abuse occurs.

Given the risk of exacerbating the fragile situation in PNG, the World Bank Group has designed a project to address gender-based violence in areas of extractives operations using initiatives at the community and national levels, through a unique partnership between the World Bank Group, government, civil society, and extractives companies. Through funding from the State and Peacebuilding Fund, as part of a Global Strategic Initiative on Sexual and Gender Based Violence which also includes activities in Nepal, , DRC, and Rwanda, and in close collaboration with the IFC, the project will support the PNG Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) to lead formative research to better understand the connection between gender-based violence and the oil, gas, and mining sectors in PNG, and based on those findings it will support targeted community outreach and raising awareness about gender-based violence. 

At the local level, this will include working with the National Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (National FSVAC) to strengthen local FSVACs in select areas, to build capacity and coordination among service providers, including health service providers, police, and the judiciary, and including representatives from extractives companies.

At the national level, the MRA will lead a collaborative forum of extractives companies to develop an industry-specific code of conduct for how they can commit to addressing gender-based violence. This code will be based on a model  Family and Sexual Violence policy developed through the IFC-supported Business Coalition for Women. The MRA will also explore whether commitments to action on  gender-based violence may become a requirement for extractives companies wishing to operate in PNG, and will look at how to integrate these extractives-specific initiatives with work other donors are undertaking to address gender- based violence in PNG. 

Hopefully, bringing this diverse set of partners around the table for the first time on this issue will not only improve our understanding of the potential correlations between extractives and gender-based violence, but also encourage extractives companies to seize the opportunity to have a positive effect in this area. 

 

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