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Journal Article


Wardlow H. P. N. G. Med. J. 2002; 45(1-2): 142-146.


Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


(Copyright © 2002, Medical Society of Papua New Guinea)






Papua New Guinea is in the early stages of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is important to understand how the sexual behaviour of Huli men and women will influence the form of the epidemic in the Tari area. High numbers of single and married men migrating out of the Tari area in search of employment, returning with sexually transmitted infections, are one cause for concern. Another is the emergence of a form of prostitution in the Tari area. This paper describes an unusual aspect of female sexual behaviour at Tari in which some women become sexually promiscuous, behaving in a manner that could be labelled prostitution. This behaviour scandalizes their families and results in a debasing of their value as brides. However, the women involved do not see their actions as being part of any form of sex work. Rather, they participate in this behaviour because they are frustrated and angry. The women feel their male kin have not fulfilled customary obligations to them as women; often the women have been raped and their assailants neither apprehended nor punished. As a result the women have come to believe that the meaning and function of bridewealth marriage has changed such that women are like commodities to be bought and sold. They see their behaviour as a form of revenge on their families and on a culture that seemingly no longer values them as persons.

Language: en


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