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Men Are Banned From Sacred Women's Only Forest In Papua

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Men Are Banned From Sacred Women's Only Forest In Papua

A sacred 'women's only' forest in Papua, Indonesia, sees men fined if they try to enter.

The forest, located in Jayapura, has been a special place for generations of women, who have gathered there to collect clams and share stories.

Men are banned from the area, with intruders facing fines of up to one million rupiah ($69/£50) - an amount that's usually paid in polished stones, according to a film by BBC Indonesia.

In the documentary, villager Adriana Meraudje said: "This has always been a women's only forest. Long before I was born, it existed. It's always been here, with the same rules.

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Adriana Meraudje. Credit: BBC
Adriana Meraudje. Credit: BBC

"To enter the women's forest, you have to be naked. You can't wear clothes.

"If a man even peeks in, he will be punished - sanctioned and fined. We take them to tribal court."

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Intruders face fines of up to one million rupiah ($69), an amount that's usually paid in polished stones.

Ari Rumboyrusi, another villager, explained how women will come together to exchange stories while they collect clams.

She said: "When it's low ride, we all go together. We invite our friends and enter the forest by boat.

"When we're in the forest, we're free, as there's no men around.

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Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

"It's just us women, so we freely share stories with the elders. We plunge our bodies into the sea, feeling our way through the mud for clams."

The women then sell the clams from the forest in nearby markets.

Meraudje added: "The women's forest is a very important place for us in our bay. We can't live without this forest.

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"We will continue to come every day and look for clams. Here women confide in each other. We can never let it go."

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

According to The Jakarta Post, the eight-hectare forest can be found in the eastern part of Kempung Enggros, the oldest kampung in Jayapura.

In recent years, the women have faced increasing challenges from litter coming from the nearby cities.

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Enggros Kampung leader Origenes Meraudje told the outlet: "We find more plastic than clams nowadays. We are so sad."

She added: "Back in the day, we needed only half a day to fill up our boat [with clams]. But these days, we work the whole day but barely fill up half the boat."

Maria Meraudje added: "We feel free to do anything we want. We are happiest when we're in the forests.

"Men who hear our voices will know and they will go further away from the forests."

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: indonesia, World News, News

Jess Hardiman
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