Topic: Human rights and the status of women in Papua New Guinea: theory versus reality

Presenter: Ms Freda Talao - PhD Candidate - TC Beirne School of Law

Many modern democracies are committed to promoting the equality of men and women. Gender equality requires governments to address both equality of opportunities and sex-based differences. Upon independence from its colonial master, Australia, in 1975, Papua New Guinea adopted principles of equality and non-discrimination in its new independence constitution, including freedom from discrimination based on gender. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm conflicts head on with the customary legal system, which colonialism failed to eliminate.

The thesis will review the explicit and implicit application of women's human rights law both as it exists on the face of the formal documents, including the Constitution and the relevant international human rights instruments PNG has ratified, and in the way in which they are interpreted and executed in PNG. The research will explore the difficulty of translating women's human rights into reality in an environment underpinned by patriarchy and where culture and traditions are more respected than the formal law. It will consider whether the status of women in PNG accords with best international ideals and whether Papua New Guinea's legal framework meets these ideals. Additionally, the thesis will analyse the impact of custom on the rights of women and investigate how both custom and the formal laws might be reconciled to benefit women in PNG.

All welcome, no RSVP required.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: 334 69350, email:


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