September 4, 2015
Sorcery related violence continues to cast shadows over Papua New Guinea. Recent killings have highlighted the national emergency that the region is facing. Urgent action is required to disrupt beliefs in sorcery that justify abhorrent violence against women.
Historically, witches have been blamed for natural disasters. A curious combination of frost in the highlands and drought across the region are destroying crops and prompting villagers to resort to potentially contaminated waters. There are growing fears that sorcery related violence will increase in the context of the current climate, given the link between witchcraft and climatic extremes.
The public humiliation, beating and burning of so-called ‘witches’ in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea has alerted authorities to the state of emergency. Governments are also on alert, with the Sorcery National Action Plan submitted for endorsement.
Belief in sorcery is a complex issue, and ending sorcery-related violence will require courageous leadership that challenges entrenched beliefs. The government needs to work with civil society organisations and law enforcement agencies to eradicate this violence.
IWDA’s Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women program partner, Voice for Change works in Papua New Guinea and is recognised provincially and nationally for their expertise in responding and preventing violence against women. Voice for Change was also invited to participate in the drafting of the National Action Plan on Sorcery and Witchcraft Related Violence in 2014.