It looks like I will be going to PNG in just over a week. Sigh. Here’s hoping.
I have been using the hours of the day to read about sexual violence. The latest report I am reading is Amnesty International’s report on sexual violence in PNG: “Papua New Guinea: Violence Against Women: Not inevitable, not acceptable!”
The words play out the choreography of sexual violence. Stage right the wives that are “owned” by their husbands, who experience “wife bashing”, who are submitted to sex at the whim of their husbands. Stage left, the gang rape of teenage girls at school. Center stage, the rape of women by policemen, who announce “public toilet” over the radio to let other policemen know that a gang rape is taking place so that they can join in. Backstage the women and girls that trade sex for food and shelter, often pimped out by the same man who raped them into a state of subversion.
Soon, one way or another, I will be part of that choreography. In some ways, I already am.
I place the report down, and gaze at the ceiling. I have read many other such reports, and I can never fully believe what I am reading. Is it possible that such a place exists, where women are denied of their basic human rights, not to mention instinctual love and tenderness from their sons, brothers, fathers, lovers, husbands. Don’t take my question as naiveté. I am simply filled with a mixture of rage, sadness, incredulity. Also gratitude for what I have experienced in my life, thanks to men and women who have fought for our equality, not so long ago.
Night is here, and my mind craves silence. I turn off the light, my sight accommodating to the darkness. I curl under the sheets. Warmth ribbons around my body, and merges with the wavelengths of sleep as I ebb away from consciousness. Safe.
I am in a field, and in front of me there is a tree. It’s a birch. Its bare branches decorated by pink, paper flowers of different shapes and sizes. Women walk towards me from different directions. Their shapes take on nondescript forms, like phantoms. I can’t make out their faces. Without speaking they tell me of their stories of rape and abuse. I climb on and off a ladder, listening to the fog of whispers as I place more pink, paper flowers on the branches.
I wake up and blink into the darkness of the room.