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By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby

A passionate plea by men, women and children has echoed around the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby – that it is time to turn the corner on addressing gender-based violence in the country.

Gatherings, a peaceful march and a vigil were staged in the capital city on Thursday following the death of 19-year-old Jenelyn Kennedy, a mother-of-two, after alleged beatings at home.

Her husband appeared in court on Tuesday charged with wilful murder.

READ MORE: Background and reports on gender-based violence in PNG

Jean Parkop, wife of National Capital District Governor Powes, said this must be the turning point.

“Let’s not wait until someone else dies. We must demand for change, we must demand for action,” she said.

“As mothers, it is our duty to teach our sons to never hit women. This must not continue. We must stand up now.”

Prime Minister James Marape urged men to walk away from cultural and tribal defences, cycle of violence and to respect women.

‘Women are our partners’
“Women are our partners. They are our partners not just in homes but also in communities and the country as a whole,” he said.

Ironically, the idea of a vigil and march came from men who were so touched by Jenelyn’s death.

“It’s time men stand up for women – our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters,” said Solomon Kantha who floated the idea to his friends.

Kantha said the picture of Jenelyn’s battered body on The National’s front page last Friday just broke his heart.

“I felt that something had to be done. We had to stop these acts of cruelty against women. If not now, when? One day, it just might be our mother, sister, wife or even our daughter,” he said.

Kantha said he could not sleep last Friday because he too had daughters.

“I said let’s walk in memory of late Jenelyn. My friends reached out and said: Let’s do this. We decided to hold a vigil to not only remember her life but the lives of all other women who had died as a result of violence, for those still living in violence around the country.”

Make voices heard challenge
Kennedy family friend Thomas Opa from the Gulf challenged women to make their voices heard.

He said PNG already had laws to address such violence.

“What we need is for these laws and legislations to be actioned. We demand for action,” he said.

Opa said Jenelyn’s death had given a voice to women.

“Don’t let her death be in vain. Don’t let another young woman die like this. This is the time to demand for action, not just for Jenelyn but for all other women who have died from violence, for all the survivors of violence and for our daughters and their future,” he said.

Rebecca Kuku is a senior journalist with The National.

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