End sorcery-related violence

Editorial

POLICE in Port Moresby rescued two women from being tortured by a group of men who had accused them of practising sorcery in Port Moresby.
The two were tied and assaulted.
They had severe burns and knife wounds and were treated by St John’s Ambulance officers at the scene before being taken to hospital.
The incident happened at Mango Mine settlement at 5-Mile.
Just earlier this month, police in Eastern Highlands rescued a woman and her daughter who were accused of practising sorcery and tortured for several days after her community health worker (CHW) husband was believed to have died from Covid-19.
The mother, 45, and daughter, 19, had broken arms and burnt marks and cuts on their arms, heads and bodies when police found them captive in a settlement called Bush Fire in Goroka.
Sorcery-related violence and killings continue seemingly unabated in Papua New Guinea.
Sorcery-related activities only make a resurgence – perhaps only because the incidents were brought to the limelight by various quarters.
The real extent of sorcery-related violence is difficult to estimate because many cases go unreported.
Belief in sorcery or witchcraft is deeply entrenched and widely held in different forms across PNG, not only in remote and/or rural areas.
Violence related to accusations of sorcery or witchcraft is a real problem.
Research conducted in two provinces between January 2016 and October 2017 found that a-third of almost 150 recorded cases of accusations of sorcery or witchcraft resulted in violence, and of these, almost three quarters involved torture of people accused of sorcery or witchcraft.
More than one in 10 were killed and over one-third were permanently injured.
Cases reported showed that women were subjected to such violence more than men.
It seems women live in fear of being accused of sorcery and this is possibly due to socio-cultural factors that have a bearing on respect for equal rights and the status of women.
Sorcery accusation related violence is commonly perpetrated against widows or women.
Women have lost land, homes, produce and livestock, and in many cases, were exiled from their communities.
Most of this violence involvesdvicious sexual assault.
Young men or boys, acting with the sanction of other members of the community commonly lead the attacks.
In some cases, those accused of sorcery are not killed but banished from the communities.
Cultural beliefs trigger off sorcery accusation related violence as well.
In 2013, extensive publicity was given to the deaths of two women accused of witchcraft that drew international and national attention to the problem of sorcery and witchcraft accusation–related violence.
The Government reacted by repealing the Sorcery Act 1971 and created a new provision in the Criminal Code Act 1974 (chapter 262).
Section 229A of the Criminal Code Act provides that any person who intentionally kills another person on account of an accusation of sorcery is guilty of wilful murder, for which the penalty is death.
However, those within the Government and the wider community know that these problems cannot be solved solely at a legislative level and should rather take in a holistic response.
A year later, after meetings and consultation, a draft national action plan was developed in 2014 and was approved by the National Executive Council in 2015.
It is almost six years since the plan was approved and only time will tell on when the plan becomes a reality.
Guess it all goes back now to funding.

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