Women students at the University of Papua New Guinea silently suffering from persistent sexual harassment and abuse in the vicinity of the Waigani campus have become as national issue with a protest leading to a clash with media.
The issue was brought to public attention when a woman student was held up by a group of about 10 male students in front of the Toluan female dormitory when a male student grabbed her butt and her breast.
Her friend posted on Facebook condemning the sexual harassment. The post was shared and attracted much criticism of male students of UPNG.
Women students then staged a mini peaceful protest at Waigani campus with the media invitated to show their frustration about the treatment from a minority of male students. They also wanted the administration to address the issue.
Some male students attempted to prevent the protest from happening and the media from reporting it.
UPNG Student Representative Council (SRC) women’s vice-president Nancy Poglau, leading her fellow students during the protest with tears yesterday, cried out to the student body and the administration that the issue had been faced by female students for many years.
“We want to address this issue. We want our voices to be heard. We came to UPNG because of our knowledge and why are you harassing us?” she asked.
“Most male students don’t harass females on the campus but those few who are doing this — please see us as your sisters and mothers.
“We must put an end to this issue.”
The UPNG protest meeting today. Video: Michael Kabuni
Video of University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) protest meeting today when male students attacked news #media reporting on sexual #harassment on the campus – video by Michael Kabuni. Story at #AsiaPacificReport https://t.co/Yhsf2R5Koj @upngcore #PNG https://t.co/VfUY4R12vT pic.twitter.com/2s1HminLOH
— David Robie (@DavidRobie) June 8, 2021
Angry mob attacks media
The forum was interrupted by an angry mob of male students that verbally insulted and attempted to physically harass media workers comprising a journalist, camera man and photographers from several media organisations.
The media workers were chased on foot by a group from UPNG’s Forum square to the new Student Services office.
University security and administration staff were present but were overpowered by the mob.
The mob demanded the media not give coverage to the issue, saying that it was an “internal matter” and would be dealt with by the UPNG administration.
The media workers left the scene without harm.
Charlie Dumavi is a PNG Bulletin journalist.
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