Lukautim Pikinini Act

In 2009, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government passed the Lukautim Pikinini (Child Welfare) Act (LPA), which was informed by the CRC and written and sponsored by Carol Kidu, now Dame Carol and still then the Minister of Community and Development. Children were granted their constitutional rights as well as the right granted in domestic laws and the CRC, upon whose principles the act was based. The child was defined as anyone under 18 instead of under 16, as in previous legislation. It gave responsibility for enforcing the law and protecting children from abuse (verbal, physical and sexual) to newly established Child Protection Officers and Community Development Officers, mandating them to provide guidance and counselling to families in support of their parental responsibilities, to investigate allegations that a child is in need of protection and to provide that protection, and to identify, raise awareness, and work with communities ‘to change harmful social, economic and customary practices’, among other responsibilities. It criminalised child abuse, including emotional and psychological harm, imposing a fine of K2,000 ($US800) and/or imprisonment for the offence. Also, it put in place a system of councils and committees: a National Lukautim Pikinini Council to oversee the enforcement of the law; Lukautim Pikinini Councils in every province; and Lukautim Pikinini Committees in every district, to ensure the enforcement of the LPA at all levels. The intention of the LPA, with its system of councils and committees, was to make community participation in ‘ensuring the protection of children under the law’ mandatory and to encourage all citizens to take ownership of this mission. Importantly, ‘Village Courts would have no jurisdiction under the law to hear child abuse [cases] or other matters relating to children’ but were expected to refer such matters to a national Lukautim Pikinini Court.

A revised LPA was passed in parliament. It renders marriage of a male and/or female under the age of 18 illegal. The primary motivation for revising the LPA was an alarming increase in orphans and ‘street kids’—homeless children or children who remain in the family but are neglected there and who beg and steal and who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Like the original Act, the revised LPA emphasises children’s rights (to protection from abuse and neglect and to equal opportunity and education) but also parental responsibilities and duties. Children who are neglected or abused in their family situation may be removed and placed in the care of the Office for Child and Family Services, which the Department of Community Development will create to implement the revised LPA. Provincial-level child and family service committees will be formed to assure children’s welfare throughout the country.

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