Violence against women accused of “witchcraft” is rising in Papua New Guinea

The actress Florinda Bolkan in Don’t torture a duckling (1972), in this scene, she was attacked and accused wrongly of black magic. (Pic by Movieplayer.it)

June 21st, 2021

Since March 2021, at least five women were attacked and accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea.
The Asia Initiative Manager at Human Rights Watch, Stephanie McLennan, urges to take action against offenders.

“The Papua New Guinea government should urgently investigate all cases of violence following sorcery accusations, and prosecute those responsible. Gender-based violence is a persistent problem in Papua New Guinea, and the government is doing very little to stop it”.

Stephanie McLennan, Human Rights Watch

The most recent attack was on May 7th in the Hela Province. After the death of a young boy, a woman, Mary Kopari, was accused of witchcraft. She was tied up and burned alive, and the atrocity was recorded on video and reported by Papua New Guinea television. Despite all of this evidence, no one has been arrested.
There is a tendency, when someone in a village dies of an invisible disease (such as Covid-19), to call it witchcraft.
On April 25th, the police managed to save two women from 20 men torturing them and accusing them of sorcery. The women reported knife wounds and severe burns.

In some cases, women lose their lives for a popular belief. 

People tend to link sorcery practices to ignorance. Still, it is fully part of gender-based violence and includes a demeaning view of women as evil and dangerous, especially when it comes to women trying to emancipate themselves. Nowadays, “witch” is still used as an insult; from Circe to Medea, the representation of the women using their spells against men has endured over the centuries, together with the fear of the “unknown” and the women themselves. 

An important documentary realised by The Guardian shows the effects of misogyny and ignorance in the Eastern Highlands (Papua New Guinea) and dig into these attacks, also from the perspectives of a former perpetrator.
The accuses of witchcraft are probably lead by the normalisation of violence against women in every form, day by day, and by the lack of certainty of punishment for the perpetrators.

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