A village court’s vital role

Village courts are often the first – and sometimes, only – access to justice for many Papua New Guineans across the country.

They play a vital role in communities, supporting the most vulnerable, including survivors of Family and Sexual Violence (FSV) and people with disabilities.

In Haku Village in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a woman, clearly shaken, tells her story to Village Court Magistrate Anna Sapur and her colleagues.

The visually impaired woman fled her home seeking support on a domestic matter. She is accompanied by a relative and two workers from the nearby Hako Women’s Collective Seif Haus where she had taken refuge.

For Village Court Magistrate Sapur, this woman’s plight is not unusual. Sapur has worked at the Haku Village Court for over 19 years, serving more than 11,000 people from the Haku Constituency.

On average, Haku Village Court hears around seven cases every month involving FSV, and many more in relation to relationship breakdowns, land issues and custody disputes.

In 2020, Sapur was among a group of Village Court officials, including Haku Village Court Clerk Benjamin Leo Golu, who received training on the Family Protection Act (FPA), with support from the Australian Government through the PNG-Australia Partnership.

Sapur credits the training for her ability to effectively address these important issues and help her community.

Sapur listens carefully to both parties and issues her decision based on her training.

She ensures that where needed, FSV survivors are connected to support services, including safe houses.

Village Court Clerk Golu also draws on his training to educate others on FSV cases and advocate the purpose of Interim Protection Orders (IPOs).

IPOs can save lives by prohibiting perpetrators from contacting a survivor, reducing the risk of further violence. Such advocacy forms a vital part of the Village Court’s role to improve the lives of people in the community including youth and persons with disabilities.

(A woman with a visual impairment [back to camera] appears in the Haku Village Court before Magistrates Anna Sapur [right] and Gorethy Hapelits)

Press Release