Women in Papua New Guinea Being Tortured for Allegedly Practicing Witchcraft, Causing AIDS-Related Deaths
Some women in Papua New Guinea are being accused of practicing witchcraft to cause AIDS-related deaths among young people in the country, officials and researchers have said recently, AFP/France24 reports. A recent analysis released by the Centre for Independent Studies in Australia said, "Sorcery, witchcraft and other supernatural forces are widely blamed for causing HIV/AIDS" in Papua New Guinea. It added that "[a]ccusations of sorcery have resulted in torture and murder" of some women. Research fellow Miranda Tobias wrote in the analysis that there are "reports of women being tortured for days in efforts to extract confessions." Such forms of torture include being "beaten, stabbed, cut with knives, sexually assaulted and burnt with hot irons," Tobias wrote. According to the analysis, it is "estimated that there have been 500 such attacks in the past year."
Joe Kanekane of the Papua New Guinea Law and Justice Sector Secretariat said, "People believe a witch would behave in a certain way, would walk in a certain way," he said, adding, "That's all the basis that they have, and there's realistically no tangible substance to it." According to Kanekane, "They don't actually see the woman transform herself into a python or whatever it is (witches are reputedly capable of). Witchcraft is embedded in people's perceptions, embedded in their way of life."
Carol Kidu, Papua New Guinea's only female member of Parliament, said, "Sorcery permeates many societies in Papua New Guinea, and these young deaths from HIV/AIDS are unexplained, and so they attach it to sorcery, they make it witchcraft." Military doctor Roselyne Wia said the only way to stem this trend would be to "educate the village leaders and get the message down to the grassroots." According to a recent United Nations report, Papua New Guinea accounts for 90% of HIV cases in the Oceania region. High levels of sexual violence against women and inadequate access to sex education has contributed to the spread of the virus, according to the U.N. report. An estimated 60,000 people in the country were living with HIV in 2005 (Bartlett, AFP/France24, 7/23).