March 6 2013
Superstition, Sorcery, and a War on Women
Witch burnings are not just an embarrassing blip in American history books, but have become general occurrence in Papua New Guinea.
When bad things happen in New Guinea, the nation just north of Australia, like the death of a child, many New Guineans look for blame, and many believe sorcery is the culprit. Philip Gibbs, a longtime resident, anthropologist, sorcery specialist and Roman Catholic priest reports, “When people die, especially men, people start asking ‘Who’s behind it?’ not ‘What’s behind it?’” according to the New York Times.
What's more, accusing a woman of sorcery is an easy way to take her land, which may be resource rich given New Guinea's mining boom.
What results is mobs of people surround a woman accused of witchcraft while her accusers beat, torture, rape, genitally burn, and eventually crucified or burn her sometimes on a spit. It is common for a woman's attackers to be both high and drunk.
One doctor reports he sees several patients per week who have been attacked for sorcery accusations.
Part of the problem is New Guinea law acknowledges sorcery and criminalizes it. And those who take the law into their own hands and attack these “sorcerers” on their own are rarely prosecuted and get off with light sentences."
Stories of the torture endured are sickening.
In the U.S., we have a legal and judicial structure established to protect people from violence and ensure justice when violence occurs. Sadly New Guineans do not have such protections or confidence. To learn more, click here.