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

Changes which will benefit Women:

Changes which will benefit Women:

Areas in which the Law Reform Commission has recommended changes that will benefit women or make them equal to men:

  1. Prostitution: we have recommended that prostitution be legalized, but that men who keep houses of prostitution still be liable to a fine or jail. This will, we hope, curb the kinds of men who live off prostitutes, and at the same time permit women who are prostitutes to avoid the shame of frequent meaningless arrests. We have also recommended that V.D. Clinics be established. Once prostitution is legal, more prostitutes will make use of V.D. Clinics because they will not be afraid of arrests at them.

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  2. Adultery: we will probably recommend that adultery cease to be a criminal offence. Currently under the Native Regulations, adulteres can be fined or jailed – but only Papua New Guinea adulterers. The current law specifically applied only to “natives” of our country and not to expatriates. We will probably recommend that adultery be treated not as a criminal offence but as a civil matter in the village courts. We will also recommend that compensation be available not only to men whose wives commit adultery but also to women whose husbands commit adultery.

  3. Drunkness: in the towns, especially, drunkness bas become a great problem. Working men spend their entire fortnight's paycheck at the bar, often get into fights, and come home with no money for their wives to use for food and clothing and school fees. The law as it now stands, knows only one way to handle the problem – drunks are arrested and thrown into jail, making it even harder for their wives to make ends meet. We have recommended that drunkness by itself no longer be a crime, but that habitual drunkards can be sent to a magistrate for treatment. We are also considering recommending that women be allowed to collect part of their husbands' salaries directly from his employer, if the husband is shown to be a person who frequently drinks up all his pay.

  4. Succession: we will probably recommend a new kind of succession law that falls somewhere in between customary law, which left no property to a man's wife, and the imported law, which leaves all a man's property to his wife, ignoring the claims of his clan and relatives. We hope to work out a formula that gives women equal rights to inherit property, but which also recognised the need to maintain strong clan structures. We shall probably do this either by reserving a certain percentage of a man's property for his wife, or by declaring that wives are full members of clans, can become heads of clans even, and therefore, should receive equal shares in whatever the clan receives.

  5. Marriage and Divorce: we are planning to begin research page 66 in the near future into the whole fied of family law, with a view of completely reworking current marriage, child welfare and divorce laws. There are many issues here that we must consider. Women's rights are, of course, a major issue in this area. But there are also questions such as: should polygamous marriages be recognised? What should be the status of illegitimate children? Should divorces be easy or difficult to obtain? We intend to go into this whole field in great depths, and to spend a lot of time talking to women's groups and to people all over the country, before we make any final recommendations.

  6. Maintenance: Currently, in PNG, a woman can receive payments from a man who has fathered her illegitimate child. And a wife can receive payments from her husband for herself and her children, if the husband actually deserted her. But a woman cannot receive payments, until the divorce is final, for herself or her children, if she left her husband – either through her fault or because he was impossible to live with. We intend to change this law.