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Life jail for rape under new PNG laws

Life jail for rape under new PNG laws  (Source: Reuters)
Papua New Guinea's Government has approved a series of tough penalties for crimes such as rape, in a move described by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill as "draconian".
PNG's National Executive Council, a cabinet-like body, approved a raft of legislation on Wednesday to increase the penalties for violent crimes such as murder and rape, as well as activating the Pacific nation's long-dormant death penalty.
"These proposed legislations will carry real maximum sentences we have never before seen in this country," O'Neill said.
"We will regulate and pass laws that some people in our community may find draconian but I think the majority of people are demanding it.
"We as a responsible government will deliver it."
Opposition Leader Belden Namah said he would support the laws, which will go to Parliament for debate in mid-May.
The penalty for rape would be increased to life without parole.
O'Neill also proposed a "high-risk", maximum-security prison for violent offenders, to be built on an as-yet-unnamed isolated island.
The laws also include tougher penalties for alcohol and drug offences.They include a maximum 50-year jail term for selling or cultivating marijuana and a maximum of 20 years for people found to be making home-brewed alcohol.
Institute of National Affairs director Paul Barker said the laws need to be handled carefully.
"When your judicial and police are weak, there's always the possibility you have got the wrong person," he said.
There are currently 10 inmates in PNG who have been sentenced to death, but the nation hasn't carried out an execution since before independence from Australia in 1975.
Attorney General Kerenga Kua told the Post Courier newspaper PNG's criminal code currently only allows hanging as a method for capital punishment.
He said he wasn't keen to reintroduce that method of punishment.
"Work is progressing ... to amend the criminal code to accommodate the options considered painless and non-violent to those on death row when executed," he said.
Church groups have spoken out in recent weeks against the reintroduction of the death penalty.
PNG's international reputation has taken a beating in recent months after a series of unrelated brutal murders and rapes across the country.
In early February 20-year-old Kepari Leniata was tortured, stripped and burned alive in front of a crowd who accused her of witchcraft on the outskirts of Mt Hagen, PNG's third largest city.
In the same area, Australian expat Robert Purdy was shot and killed in a home invasion carried out by 10 men, who then pack raped a woman staying in the house.
An American academic travelling in Madang on the nation's east coast was also pack raped earlier this month, and a woman was beheaded for sorcery in Bougainville.

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