When FotoEvidence first exhibited photographer Vlad Sokhin's 'Crying Meri', they had no idea how fast and deep would be its impact. Within months, the work was picked up by gender activists working for the United Nations, Amnesty Australia Pacific, and Child Fund Australia for campaigns to expose the extraordinary violence against women in Papua New Guinea (PNG). International attention and a public outcry by concerned activists brought a response by the government, which passed the nation's first law prohibiting domestic violence late last year. This is a first step in a long process of change that needs to happen in PNG to protect women from violence. FotoEvidence and Vlad Sokhin have launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a publish 'Crying Meri' and create a documentary record of gender violence in PNG.
Reliable statistics are hard to find in Papua, New Guinea but in the only survey available, done more than twenty years ago, approximately half of women reported being raped. Qualitative studies done since suggest that nothing has changed. More than two thirds of women report being subjected to domestic violence. In one qualitative study in a highland region, almost all women reported being raped. In addition, traditional beliefs about sorcery often lead villagers, confronted with a death or unexpected misfortune, to accuse a woman of sorcery. The accused may be killed or brutalized and ostracized, leaving them injured and without community support. UN Women states that levels of violence against women in Papua New Guinea are getting worse and Medicins Sans Frontieres claim that they are dealing with levels of violence normally only experienced in war zones.
The majority of local men don’t respect “meris” (“women” in PNG Pidgin), constantly beating them, often using bush knives and axes. While in traditional villages such attitudes toward women can be attributed to tribal culture, today in Port Moresby violence against women remains widespread and shocks modern society. (FotoEvidence)