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'Not a white woman safe' : sexual anxiety and politics in Port Moresby, 1920-1934

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: 'Not a white woman safe' : sexual anxiety and politics in Port Moresby, 1920-1934
Author(s): Inglis, Amirah
Date published: 1974
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
Sexual anxiety, bordering on panic, in the Australian colonial town of Port Moresby - 'Port' - during the 1920s is the theme of this book. Port Moresby was more white, more Protestant, more homogeneous than comparable towns like Darwin or Rabaul. Its Papuan inhabitants were considered low on the ladder of civilisation and were despised for trying to climb up it. At the same time they were feared. Liaison with a black, demeaning to a white man, was regarded as defilement to a white woman, and the Papuans were believed to be primitives, unable to control their sexual appetites. Panic and political passion forced Administrator Hubert Murray, whose native policy was criticised as {u2018}lenient{u2019}, to introduce the savagely discriminatory White Women's Protection Ordinance. It stated that anyone who raped or attempted to rape a white woman or girl would be hanged. Mrs Inglis tells the stories of two Papuans convicted under the Ordinance and shows how guilt over the conduct of the trials and over the public hanging of one of the m en clouded the judgment of the white residents so that they became incapable of telling the truth about the incidents, then or later. She questions their belief, ironically shared by Papuans, that white women, sometimes unwittingly, provoked the attacks by immodest behaviour and demonstrates that the Ordinance was the logical outcome of hurt male prestige, authority, and racial pride. The Ordinance was revoked in 1958.


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