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Papua New Guinea: Appalling violence against six women in Easter 'witch hunt'

The six women had their hands tied, were stripped naked and had hot iron rods pushed into their genitals. Their fate is unknown.

The authorities in Papua New Guinea must take urgent action to prevent and punish “sorcery”-related violence, following reports that six women and a man were abducted and subjected to acts of appalling cruelty by a group who accused them of witchcraft, Amnesty International said.

Komape Lap, a man from the Southern Highlands area of Papua New Guinea claims that he and six women had their hands tied, were stripped naked and had hot iron rods pushed into their genitals. Komape Lap escaped but the fate of the six women is unknown.

The attack is reported to have taken place last Thursday (28 March), in an Easter ‘witch-hunt’, according to local media. The police have confirmed they are investigating the incident.

Amnesty International Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said:

“The priority must be to find out the fate of the six women. The perpetrators must also be brought to justice for the abduction and crimes of sexual and other violence, if confirmed.

“The government must take urgent action to prevent any further ‘sorcery’-related violence and must also provide the survivors with support and full access to health and other services.

“Sorcery is often used as a pretext to commit violence against women. Repealing the Sorcery Act is one of the first urgent steps the authorities must take towards preventing further horrific attacks.”

Last month, Papua New Guinea’s Constitutional and Law Reform Commission also called on the government to repeal the Sorcery Act 1971, which criminalises the practice of “forbidden sorcery”.

These reports are the latest in a series of attacks against people accused of “sorcery”, which in most cases have resulted in women being murdered. In February, 20-year-old Kepari Leniata was stripped, tied up, doused in petrol and burned alive by relatives of a young boy she was accused of using witchcraft to kill. Two people were charged as a result of the incident.

The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has noted that women, particularly widows or women without family to protect them, are disproportionately affected by “sorcery”- related violence in Papua New Guinea.

Amnesty urged the authorities to adopt measures to prevent all forms of violence against women, including passing the Family Protection Bill which was approved by the Cabinet yesterday.

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