It has been really great to see the angry reaction from many Papua New Guineans, regarding the photo taken of two women dancing in a cage (see picture). Deep down, many have felt that Papua New Guinean women should not be exploited.
But the issue is currently being wrongly debated. Many have attacked the two women and said so many nasty things. Others argued fiercely against cage dancing. Anyone who has tried to balance the debate has been seen as either unPapua New Guinean or unchristian.
So how do we address this issue appropriately? I think many who have seen the cage-dancing photo on Facebook have condemned the act without taking into account the context with which it is being done.
It is not good enough to just determine whether cage dancing is right or wrong, but to also understand and address the root causes.
I think therefore that its wrong to attack the ladies not because what they did was right, but because these women are victims of the many societal pressures that cage all Papua New Guinean women.
I also think that a lot of the moral and religious arguments attacking this particular scenario were valid but shallow if they do not take into account the social, economic and political drivers of such activities.
Human behavior at its most basic is defined by self-preservati
It is not good enough to just stop cage dancing but to liberate the women who are caged.
We should therefore ask ourselves why two women in a resource rich country have to dance in a cage.
Rather than passing religious or cultural judgments on the act of cage dancing we should be identifying what pushes or attracts women into the cage.
I have seen some commentators state that cage dancing will lead to or increase prostitution. We need to ask why women in PNG have to sell themselves. Is it because women in PNG don’t have the same opportunities to health, education, jobs, political participation, community leadership, etc.… that men in Papua New Guinea have?
Many Papua New Guineans may be offended and appalled by the picture of women dancing in cages but I wonder how any if they are as equally outraged by the;
- Cage of Domestic violence
- Cage of Mothers having their bilums snatched
- Cage of Mothers and sisters not being able to move freely
- Cage of Mothers dying during child birth
- Cage of women being raped
- Cage of women not being recognized at work
- Cage of women not equally participating in Politics
- Cage of girls missing out on education opportunities
Hardly anyone quotes Bible verses or make arguments about “not being our culture” when it comes to freeing women from all the other CAGES that exist.
Many if not all of these cages are built by Papua New Guinean men and women, using cultural or Biblical narratives to justify keeping women in cages.
For instance, when a woman’s phone or bilum gets stolen, we men blame the victim for being at the wrong place or “failing” to take extra precautions. None of us it seems want to free women in PNG from the CAGE of insecurity. Instead we attack them for “not using their heads.”
Women make up half of PNG’s population.
The scary truth is that half of Papua New Guinea’s population is caged and very little is being done to break those cages.
How does PNG develop itself if half of its population is caged?
We need a mature conversation about how we free our women from the cages that they are imprisoned in. One that’s based on empathy and respect for each and every Papua New Guinean. It is not about pointing fingers or being judgmental but working together to create a better society for all of us –meri na man – to live in.
We can all start by identifying the things that cage the women and girls in our own families and communities, and work towards uprooting them.