Introduction: Drawing on research among coffee smallholders in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, I examine the issue of sexual and reproductive coercion, defining the latter as behaviour used by male intimate partners to control the fertility outcomes of their female partners. Increasingly, international literature recognises that reproductive coercion is one aspect of violent behaviours that men use to control their female partners.
Methods: To capture the various contexts of smallholder coffee production, the research was undertaken at four sites in Eastern Highlands Province. For this paper, I draw on the quantitative component of a mixed methods study, which comprised a household survey of 143 households chosen through multi-stage cluster sampling from comprehensive lists of coffee smallholders, and separate male and female questionnaires administered to the married couple.
Findings: Rates of sexual coercion were high, being the most common form of violence in the four research sites, with nearly half of women reporting some experience of forced sexual intercourse at some time in their marriage. The research showed that women have little agency over their own bodies and their whereabouts, being subjected to high degrees of control by their partners. Controlling behaviour over access to healthcare was particularly severe; 63.4% of women indicated their partner’s permission must be sought. Very high proportions of men (93.1%) and women (88.2%) believed that a woman should consult her husband before using family planning. Considerable tolerance existed for violence being used against a woman who did not become pregnant with over a half of women (54.4%) and nearly a quarter of men (24.6%) believing such violence was justified.
Conclusions: The study identifies a need for further focused research to examine reproductive coercion in Papua New Guinea. Research tools specifically for that country should be developed since those currently in use are generally appropriate to developed countries only.