Customary laws, patriarchy, and the prosecution processes are crushing blows to rape survivors and society — these are some of the key issues addressed in Mat Mo Pig, the latest film production by Wan Smolbag Theatre.

The film premiered last night at Tana Cine and was attended by representatives of civil society organisations, local government and international organisations.

Supported by the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, the film was released as part of the ongoing 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (16 Days) campaign, which brings together civil society and government to end violence against women and girls in Vanuatu.

The film sheds light on sexual violence in Vanuatu and the traumatic journey endured by survivors as they try to bring the case to court.

According to the 2011 Vanuatu National Survey on Women’s Lives and Family Relationships, 60 per cent of women have experienced physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives, while 58 per cent have experienced both physical and sexual abuse.

The statistics highlighted that 16% have experienced sexual abuse and 26 per cent experienced physical abuse.

Mat Mo Pig film writer, Jo Dorras, revealed that the film was inspired by true events which her family experienced, adding that she witnessed court proceedings and the effect they had on survivors who relived trauma as they came face to face with their perpetrator.

Ms Dorras highlighted that rape victim in particular were made to prove they were sexually assaulted, rather than the other way around.

“In some countries, the accused has to prove his innocence and they did not rape the victim rather than the other way around,” she said.

“That is a step forward. We hope that through this film we will be able to change how the prosecution is done and to change perceptions towards victims.”

The Ambassador of the European Union (EU) for the Pacific and to Vanuatu, Sujiro Seam reaffirmed the commitment of the EU to end violence against women and girls through the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.

“Culture is a powerful medium to foster fair and equal societies and raise awareness about gender based violence,” Ambassador Seam added.

“A movie like ‘Mat Mo Pig’, can become a catalyst for social change and strengthen community engagement. The EU places gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls firmly at the top of its global priorities, to implement long-lasting and sustainable solutions to create peaceful, equal and diverse communities.”

UN Resident Coordinator to Vanuatu, Sanaka Samarasinha, said the film was sobering and sent a strong message to members of society.

“This is a great initiative by our Spotlight grantee, Wan Smolbag Theatre. The film covers some key social issues and is a wake-up call to both institutions in charge of ensuring the rights and protection of survivors, and society as a whole, moving away from victim-blaming and stigma, and towards survivor-centred support that help women and girls exercise their rights without having to endure additional suffering during the prosecution,” he said.

Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative for UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji added that Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is one of the most widespread but least recognized human rights abuses in the world, affecting individuals and communities everywhere. Unfortunately, Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) remains one of the key development challenges in Vanuatu.

“UNDP through the Spotlight Initiative will continue to work in partnership with all parties to end Violence Against Women and Girls in Vanuatu. This is part of the efforts and commitment to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), specifically SDG 5 on Gender Equality,” Bouadze said.

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