Crying Meri, a Kickstarter Campaign Shows Survival of PNG Women Facing Violence

NEW YORK (US) - A new Kickstarter book publishing campaign by Fotoevidence, uses photography to draw attention to human rights violations, injustice, oppression and assaults on sovereignty or human dignity wherever they may occur. The campaign also highlights the courage and fortitude of 34-year-old Papuan native Helen Alphons who walks with a rudimentary crutch near her home.

Helen lost her leg in 2005 in a fight with her drunk husband, Alai Kawa in an act of severe domestic violence. During an argument that became critically violent, Alai chopped out Helen’s right leg with a bushknife in front of their young children, who later called for help. Alai Kawa was arrested by police, but Helen left her home with her children after she received medical treatment with the fear that her husband might be released.

She came back home only in 2010 when she found out that Alai died in prison. Nowadays she lives together with Alai’s sister and they both run a small shop in Kundiawa town, Simbu Province.

Called “Crying Meri” the Kickstarter campaign is set to create a new photography book that will show how women’s strength and endurance in PNG – Papua New Guinea has been a big part of the journey for Russian photojournalist Vlad Sokhin, who lives and travels between his home in Lisbon, Portugal and his location in Port Moresby.

Only a few months after the February 2013 release of Sokhin’s important work on WNN – Women News Network highlighting an interview between Sokhin and Fotoevidence founder and award-winning photojournalist for WNN Svetlana Bachevanova, the work to expose the atrocities facing women in Papua New Guinea brought international attention to the issue of violence against women. As citizens inside PNG, along with human rights activists outside the region, demanded a swift and direct response from the PNG government to enact legislation, the demands were successful.

The police were given legal power for the first time in Papua to make an immediate arrest of a perpetrator during an emergency domestic violence call.

In May 2013 PNG’s President Peter O’Neill also made a formal apology to women in the region who have suffered under severe domestic violence. He also vowed to lift the unfair 1971 Sorcery Act, a law that has been used for decades as an excuse to punish women violently after they have been falsely accused of witchcraft.

In early June 2013 the Sorcery Act was repealed, but with it came added concern by human rights advocates that the PNG Parliament also reinstated the death penalty, a policy that had been overturned since the 1950s.

“On 18 September 2013, the Papua New Guinean Government passed the Family Protection Bill 2013 with a landslide 65-0 vote,” said Amnesty International in their media release Good news: Family protection laws passed in PNG.

Sokhin’s photo-journalistic work was also picked up actively in 2013 by the United Nations agency dedicated to protect children worldwide, UNICEF along with UN super agency UN Women, as well as Amnesty International, who began reporting on issues covering critical violence against women in PNG in 2006.

“This is testimony to the power of art and creativity to expose, open eyes and enlighten. By backing the publication of the photobook Crying Meri in hardcover and for iPad you can be part of this creative process at the intersection of art and humanity,” outlines Fotoevidence in their current Kickstarter campaign. [WomenNewsNetwork]
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