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The plight of women in Papua New Guinea – witch hunts and killings

Ancient traditions are very much alive and secret rituals are still being practiced in the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea, my country of birth. Hundreds of women are killed every year with no justice recourse for their families. Even though times are changing and sickness and death can be scientifically explained, people in Papua New Guinea continue to use sorcery and witchcraft beliefs to as explanations when bad events happen and they vent their frustrations, anger and confusion by hunting for the suspected witches and torturing them. This has resulted in numerous numbers of witchcraft and sorcery-related violence (stabbings, cuttings and beatings) and killings by burning at the fire stakes which have plagued Papua New Guinea (PNG) since time immemorial. Across the country statistics have shown that many families have been subjected to this kind of violence and trauma and suffered social stress from sorcery and witchcraft accusations. Those victims that survive the violent attacks and persecutions have been marginalised and have been displaced whilst the weak have been expelled from their communities. The defenseless have been killed in horrific circumstances.

Sometimes these attacks and accusations are revenge triggered. Because I experienced such an attack and accusation, I understand the fear and stigma that witch hunts bring. Women in Papua New Guinea are regarded as inferior beings and possessions for men. This gives men the power to abuse and do so many injustices against women and even their own wives. This has sometimes led to the killings being concealed in the clan or tribal communities. The community believes that killing a suspected sorcerer is an act of defense for the good of the community. Members of the community oftentimes are reluctant to report because of the belief that sorcerers are a threat to the well-being of the community.

This has been my cause to fight for these women and against these acts of violence and human rights abuses. I have been raising my voice to be heard not only in PNG but across the world so that these beliefs are eradicated and the crimes committed are persecuted. These women deserve justice and the government of PNG should do something.

This is what I have dedicated and committed my life to, be the voice for the voiceless and push for change in laws and policies especially those that advocate violence and abuse towards women and the vulnerable.

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