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.
This research reviewed 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 explored 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 also considered whether the position of women in PNG accords with best international ideals and whether Papua New Guinea’s legal framework and its enforcement meets these ideals. Additionally, this research analysed the impact of custom and legal pluralism on the rights of women and investigated how both custom and the formal laws can work together to enable women to enjoy the best of each.