Papua New Guinea Officials Report Another Murder Following Accusations of Witchcraft, Spreading HIV
Officials in Papua New Guinea on Wednesday reported that a woman had been burnt alive at the stake after reportedly being accused of witchcraft, which often is linked to AIDS-related deaths in the country, AFP/Arab Times reports (AFP/Arab Times, 1/7). Papua New Guinea's Post Courier reports that there was speculation the woman was practicing sorcery or adultery, or had transmitted HIV to one of the suspects (Muri, Post Courier, 1/7). According to AFP/Arab Times, reports in recent years of women being tortured and killed after being accused of witchcraft have been linked with increasing AIDS-related deaths in the country. Witchcraft often is cited as the cause of death among some young people that village residents "have seen as otherwise inexplicable," AFP/Arab Times reports (AFP/Arab Times, 1/7).
Researchers with the Australian Center for Independent Studies in 2007 released a report that found that many women were being accused of practicing witchcraft to cause AIDS-related deaths among young people and, as a result, the women were tortured or murdered. The report estimated that there had been 500 such attacks in the previous year. According to a 2007 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/25/07).
According to Reuters, women in Papua New Guinea's Highlands often are blamed for spreading HIV, killed for having extramarital affairs and accused of practicing sorcery. Witnesses reported that the woman was between ages 16 and 20 (Perry, Reuters, 1/6).