Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally

Papua New Guinea LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)

National Law

Male same-sex sexual activity is criminalised as an ‘Unnatural Offence’ in the Papua New Guinea Criminal Code Act 1974, Section 210. In this section, male same-sex activity is criminalised, alongside bestiality. The maximum prison sentence is 14 years. Section 212 also criminalises ‘indecent practices between males’:

(1)  'A male person, who whether in public or private –

(a)       commits an act of gross indecency with another male person; or
(b)      procures another male person to commit an act of gross indecency with him; or
(c)       attempts to procure the commission of any such act by a male person with himself or with another male person, is guilty of a misdemeanour.'

The penalty for committing one of these offences is a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years.

 

CASE LAW

No case law is currently listed here, but we welcome suggestions.

 

PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT

Known incidences of violence and discrimination

There have been reports of gay men in the capital of Port Moresby being raped, beaten and murdered. Gay men who report a rape to the police may be blamed as the perpetrator rather than the victim. Police brutality towards gay men is common. One website showed a photo of two heterosexual men being forced to kiss whilst allegedly being held at gunpoint by the police, although the photograph’s authenticity has not been confirmed. Moreover, there are reports of individuals too terrified to get tested for HIV for fear that a positive result would not be confidentially treated by hospitals or clinic staff. There are few or no pro gay groups in Papua New Guinea given the stigma attached to being a gay person.

State and political attitudes

In 2011, the government of Papua New Guinea informed the United Nations that it will not decriminalise homosexuality. Although the government wishes to maintain the criminal law in relation to homosexuality, there have been no convictions in recent years. However, prosecutions may still occur, as there is no mandatory reporting of court cases in Papua New Guinea.

In 2014 it was reported that a number of gay asylum seekers in Australia could be resettled in Papua New Guinea. The newspaper The Guardian reported that it has seen six letters from the detainees detailing their persecution in their home country, and fear of persecution in Papua New Guinea (the authenticity of the letters has not been confirmed). One of the letters was allegedly a suicide letter written to the detainee's mother. At the time of writing, there has been no indication of the status of the detainees. However, Amnesty International has published an important study in December 2013 on the asylum seeker centre in Papua New Guinea, called ‘This is Breaking People: Human Rights violations at Australia’s Asylum Seeker Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.’ The report explores the various experiences asylum seekers face at the centre, including physical and verbal abuse, and attempted sexual assault. 

Societal attitudes

There is a strong cultural attitude portraying LGBT people as ‘both pathological and perverse’. This might be partly explained by the fact that the country has a strongly traditional Christian society that views homosexuality as a sinful activity.

However, some elements of Papua New Guinea’s society are battling for change. For instance, there is an annual Human Rights Film Festival which has recently screened a documentary called Guavas and Bananas: Living Gay in PNG. This short film documents life in a village called Hanuabada (based in Port Moresby) where it is safe to be gay and transgender. Around thirty men live in the village, where there is a collection of traditional-style Papuan houses on stilts. Gele gele (‘gay men’ in Tok Pisin, the local language) adopt traditionally female roles in society, such as cooking, cleaning and washing clothes.

However, when gay and transgender people go to the clubs in the city and become stranded without transport at night, they are at risk from being attacked when walking back to Hanuabada.

 

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)

We do not currently list any LGBTI NGOs in Papua New Guinea, but we welcome suggestions.

 

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS

Dr Gilbert Herdt 

Dr Gilbert Herdt is a cultural and clinical anthropologist, and an international expert on sexuality and culture, sexual and gender identity development, adolescent sexual orientation, and the emergence of sexual, gender and reproductive rights in US and global policy. Previously he was a professor at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and SFSU, and a visiting professor at The University of Amsterdam, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Washington. Herdt’s fieldwork on the Sambia of Papua New Guinea over a period of 37 years and 14 field trips culminated in several foundational books, notably, Guardians of the Flutes (1981), Ritualized Homosexuality in MelanesiaThe Religious Imagination in New Guinea (1989), Intimate Communications (1990), Third Sex, Third Gender (1994), and The Sambia (2006) and in the US, he is best known for his path-breaking community based study in Chicago of self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents and their families, published as The Time of AIDS (1991), Gay Culture in America (1993), Children of Horizons, 1993, and Something to Tell You, 2000, and recently, Sex Panic/Moral Panics, (NYU Press, 2009). Gil has been a pre-doctoral Fulbright scholar to Australia (1974-77), Individual Postdoc NIMH Fellow (1977-1980), and Guggenheim Fellow (1997-8), and recently was Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University (2012). He has advised NIH, WHO, and the Ford Foundation, and was the founder and first president of the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Society, and Culture, and editor and founder of the journal, Sexual Research and Social Policy. He founded and directed (1995-2008) sexuality summer institutes at the University of Amsterdam, and at SFSU. He has received research as well as center grants from the NIH, NEH, Spencer Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Ford Foundation, Haas Foundation, and others. Gil has written a new general undergraduate textbook, Human Sexuality: Society, Self and Culture (2013), which McGraw-Hill will publish in December. Dr. Herdt founded the new PhD Program in Human Sexuality at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, the first such program in the Western United States, where he continues to teach. Gil is writing his account of how Sambia sexual culture has changed over decades of fieldwork, including recent research (2010-12), The Singers Are Gone

 

Researched by: Nico Cottrell

Email: n [dot] g [dot] a [dot] cottrellatgmail [dot] com

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