Name, Shame and Blame: Criminalising Consensual Sex in Papua New Guinea
Paperback | Dec 2014 | ANU Press | 9781925021219 | 388pp | 250x176mm | POD | RFB | AUD$48.00, NZD$59.99
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