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Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2

Aims of Law Reform Commission:

Aims of Law Reform Commission:

The Law Reform Commission has attempted to solve this problem - of a conflict between customary law and the Constitution - in several ways:

(1) Recognising that the Constitution is now the basic law of our country and that the Parliament considered all the demands of custom in formulating the Constitution, we choose the Constitution over the customary law whenever we are forced to make a choice.

(2) Before we drafted any new laws, we talked about page 64 them at great length amongst ourselves, and then sent out working papers to many members of the public - including women's groups, local government councils, Members of Parliament, leaders in government and business and religious groups. The responses we received from the public did two things:

(a) they let us know what issues people feel very strongly about, and how they would like the law to be; (b) they helped - as do our meetings with people - to educate people about new laws. We realised that, much as we wanted to preserve our traditions, some changes will be necessary in order for PNG to develop. But these changes will be impossible or useless, unless the people see the need for them and agree to them. So we go to the people with every new law we propose.

(3) I should point out that, in many areas, the Constitution and the customary law are in agreement, so there are many new laws we can propose that will be much closer to the people's traditional ways of doing things than were the laws introduced by the Australian colonialists. For example, we have recommended that the imported crime, vagrancy, be abolished. Under the colonialists, people without a job could be arrested, even though they were living with their relatives who were supporting them. We recognised that it is the PNG way to support one's kin, so we recommend that this law be abolished.