Guavas and Bananas

Gender based violence in Papua New Guinea is not only against women. Other marginalised members of PNG society are also targeted. Watch Vlad Sokhin‘s new multimedia “Guavas and Bananas. Living Gay in Papua New Guinea” produced in collaboration with Roman Kalyakin about gay and transgender people in Hanuabada village of Port Moresby and about challenges they face every day:

Photography: Vlad Sokhin

Video: Vlad Sokhin, Roman Kalyakin

Edit: Daniel Kirkwood, Vlad Sokhin


Great news. 17 months after I went to Papua New Guinea with Benjamin Chesterton from Duckrabbit to work on a radio documentary “Crying Meri” for the BBC program “Open Eye”, it’s been released. It was a hell of a lot of changes, additional interviews and other strange stuff going around this doco. But finally The Open Eye – Crying Meri audio-essay was aired last weekend on BBC World Service:


***WARNING: This programme includes graphic descriptions of sexual violence*** 

‘A humanitarian crisis’, that’s how the medical charity Medicins Sans Frontiers describes the levels of violence against women they are dealing with in Papua New Guinea – levels they say they usually only witness in war-zones. It is a shocking and under-reported situation that the Russian photojournalist Vlad Sokhin has been documenting for the last three years. 

Sokhin takes us on a journey from the remote PNG highlands to the capital Port Moresby. Along the way, he hears the untold stories of women subjected to some of the most extreme violence perpetrated anywhere on earth, including the brutal torture of women accused of witchcraft. Sokhin is given rare access to Haus Ruth, one of only a handful of women’s refuges in PNG, as well as also hearing from women risking their lives by taking a stand against the violence. 

Perhaps most distubingly Sokhin talks to men who are quite open about having taken part in gang rapes and murders – exposing a criminal justice sytem that is failing women at the most basic level. It is a sobering but unforgettable journey that brings Vlad face-to-face with the truth that in Papua New Guinea men can and do get away with murder.

You can listen to the 55 min podcast on the BBC web-site or download it from here.

Visit my web-site to see more photos from Crying Meri.

“Crying Meri” book can be pre-ordered from FotoEvidence web-page.

Interview on ABC Radio Australia

In his soon to be released book “Crying Meri, violence against women in PNG” photographer Vlad Sokhin shares the stories behind gender violence statistics.


Interview in Roads & Kingdoms

My recent interview in Roads & Kingdoms blog about upcoming “Crying Meri” book, situation in Papua New Guinea in general and violence against women particularly.



Vlad Sokhin is a big Russian with a penchant for understatement, which could explain why he says he’s comfortable working in Port Moresby, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Sure, he’s been held at gunpoint a few times, but it hasn’t stopped him from coming back to Papua New Guinea nearly a dozen times in the last couple of years. First on his own and then with the help of the UN and other organizations, he traveled throughout the country documenting various forms of violence towards women (“meri” in the local language) and some of the men responsible. His first book, Crying Meri, will be released in October 2014. He joined R&K from Dili, East Timor.
Continue reading “Interview in Roads & Kingdoms” »

Crying Meri Diaries

Work on photo-documentary project could take many visual forms, from traditional photography, to documentary films and multimedia, or even diaries. During my work on “Crying Meri” I not only documented various forms of violence against women in Papua New Guinea, but used various forms of visual media to show harsh realities of women’s lives. That’s how my personal field notes were transformed to “Crying Meri Diaries”.

I wrote them during several trips to Papua New Guinea. With words and Polaroid images I kept a record of my thoughts and impressions, writing down dialogues with victims and perpetrators, and otherwise capturing the moments and events that surrounded me every day.

The diaries were included in the upcoming “Crying Meri” book. Here are some of them.

Port Moresby – a city where half of the female population is exposed to domestic and street violence. Rape, theft, armed robbery and carjacking are problems in and around the city. In its brothels, teenage girls sell their bodies, having been sent there by their fathers and brothers. Raskol gangs operate in the settlements, raping and killing, but many of their crimes are never reported to the police. Even during the day, drunken men can be seen here beating their ‘meri’: wives, daughters and even mothers. And at night… At night it is better not to leave your fortress with its high wire fence. The city may misinterpret and fail to forgive such unreasonable courage.


Richard Bal, who cut off his wife’s ear as punishment for disobedience. “I got mad with her. I got a knife and just chopped her ear off. She called her relatives. I got 500 kina in cash and paid the compensation. Her parents released this woman back to me, so we stay together again. Recently I broke her arm. She must understand that I am the head of the family. If she can’t come over to this position, I have to do something to solve the problem.”


Annie (name changed), 15, in a Mount Hagen brothel. Annie lived with her sister and her sister’s husband. Her brother-in-law forced her to work here so that she could pay for food and accommodation while staying in his house. Annie said that she has four to five clients a day. The owner of the brothel gave me permission to speak with Annie. However, while I was talking to the girl and taking pictures, he burst into the room. I could smell alcohol on his breath. “You have entered the girl’s room, so you must pay!” he said, infuriated, hitting at me with his fists. Drunken brothel clients headed toward us. My guard pushed the brothel owner to the wall and shouted at me to run to the car. I ran down the stairs and jumped into our ‘armored vehicle’, a car with the bars across the windshield, and we left. Later, I called Annie to ask if she was ok. “Everything is alright,” she said, laughing. “Sorry for that guy, he was just drunk. Could you call me later? I can’t talk right now. I’m with a client and have to work.”


Having documented violence against women in Papua New Guinea for three years, I kept looking for a family without domestic violence. In a small Papuan village called Hanuabada, I met with Dogodo Naime and his wife Gabe Igo, who had been married for more than 16 years. They had not quarreled during their marriage. When I met them, Gabe was seriously ill and had only a few months to live. During the previous four years, Dogodo had taken daily care of her, fed her, helped her to wash and change her clothes. After her death he became weak and almost never left the village. “My friends tell me to find another wife and start enjoying life again. I tell them that until the ground on Gabe’s grave subsides I will not look at any other woman.” In a country where polygamy is standard in some areas and rates of violence against women are among the highest in the world, it is rare to hear statements like this from a man.

You can preorder “Crying Meri” book here.

Preorder Crying Meri book

I am happy to announce that Crying Meri book was printed last week in Istanbul and can be preordered now via FotoEvidence web-site. The book will be available for shipment in the middle of October 2014.


Photo and Text: Vlad Sokhin
Foreword by Christina Saunders
Introduction by Jo Chandler
Photo editor: Andrei Polikanov
Text editor: David Stuart
Design: Mark Weinberg

Printed in Ofset Yapimavi in Istanbul, Turkey

Number of copies: 500