Christine Stewart

Christine Stewart graduated BA (Hons I) from Sydney University in 1966, where she studied Indonesian & Malayan Studies and Anthropology.  She first came to PNG in 1968, and gained an LLB from the University of Papua New Guinea in 1976.  She has worked in the Papua New Guinea Law Reform Commission, drafting legislation including the original drafts for management of domestic violence, and the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.  She spend more than two years in Nauru, drafting legislation there, and subsequently took up consultancy work, the main feature of which was the drafting of the PNG HIV/AIDS Management and Prevention Act 2003 (the ‘HAMP Act’) and work on environment management.  She was awarded her PhD from ANU in July 2012 for her thesis ‘Pamuk na Poofta: criminalising consensual sex in Papua New Guinea’, just as her first major publication, the volume Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea, co-edited with Margaret Jolly and published by ANU Press, was launched.

Name, Shame and Blame »

Criminalising Consensual Sex in Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Christine Stewart
Papua New Guinea is one of the many former British Commonwealth colonies which maintain the criminalisation of the sexual activities of two groups, despite the fact that the sex takes place between consenting adults in private: sellers of sex and males who have sex with males. The English common law system was imposed on the colonies with little regard for the social regulation and belief systems of the colonised, and in most instances, was retained and developed post-Independence, regardless of the infringements of human rights involved.  Now the HIV pandemic has thrown a spotlight, not altogether welcome, on the sexual activities of these two groups. In Papua New Guinea, a growing body of behavioural research has focused on such matters as individual sexual partnering, condom use and awareness of HIV. My work, however, has a different purpose. I chose the terms in the title to highlight a nexus which I believe exists between the criminal law and negative attitudes of society. At an international level, the argument has been put that decriminalising sex work and sodomy will facilitate HIV epidemic management, reducing the stigma and discrimination these groups encounter and making them easier to reach. I undertook my research therefore with the aim of gaining deeper understanding of the effects the current situation of criminalisation might have on the social lives of these criminalised people today, in the country generally and in Port Moresby the capital in particular, and whether these effects might provide evidence to support the argument for law reform. This is a rich and well-researched study of the legal, social and moral issues surrounding the criminalisation of two forms of consensual sex…. A very impressive piece of work, it is extensively documented, relies on a wide range of material and makes a clear and coherent argument about the place of law in producing identities and exclusions…. The attention to change over time and the complexity of the ways in which sexual behaviour is enacted and punished is a particular strength of the book.  —Professor Sally Engle Merry, Anthropology, Law and Society, New York University This book is an exceptional contribution to our knowledge of the nexus between the criminal law and negative attitudes of society, and what effects criminalization has on the social lives of prostitutes and males who have sex with males, and whether these effects might provide evidence to support the argument for law reform…. The author’s experience of Papua New Guinea allows her to comment in depth on such matters as the United Nations’ human rights approach to the HIV epidemic and their call to decriminalize all sexual acts between consenting adults…. She shows that criminal laws—with the help of the normative discourse of religion and media—underpin and legitimize high levels of stigma, discrimination and abuse of prostitutes and males who have sex with males…. The quality of the writing and general presentation are exceptional.  —Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi, Truman State University (retired)

Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea »

Edited by: Margaret Jolly, Christine Stewart, Carolyn Brewer
This collection builds on previous works on gender violence in the Pacific, but goes beyond some previous approaches to ‘domestic violence’ or ‘violence against women’ in analysing the dynamic processes of ‘engendering’ violence in PNG. ‘Engendering’ refers not just to the sex of individual actors, but to gender as a crucial relation in collective life and the massive social transformations ongoing in PNG: conversion to Christianity, the development of extractive industries, the implanting of introduced models of justice and the law and the spread of HIV. Hence the collection examines issues of ‘troubled masculinities’ as much as ‘battered women’ and tries to move beyond the black and white binaries of blaming either tradition or modernity as the primary cause of gender violence. It relates original scholarly research in the villages and towns of PNG to questions of policy and practice and reveals the complexities and contestations in the local translation of concepts of human rights. It will interest undergraduate and graduate students in gender studies and Pacific studies and those working on the policy and practice of combating gender violence in PNG and elsewhere.