Witch hunters target 6yo ‘sorceress’ 4 years after her mother was burned alive
O’Neill said violent abuse, largely perpetrated by men, against women and girls accused of sorcery must stop. His call comes after the Papua New Guinea Tribal Foundation, a charity to help indigenous peoples, revealed the rescue of a young girl from a village in Enga province last week.
The girl had been accused of ‘sanguma,’ a fabled practice of witchcraft. According to the charity, the girl received burns and slash wounds from heated knives.
“Let’s be clear, sanguma beliefs are absolute rubbish,” said Prime Minister O’Neill. “In the modern day sanguma is not a real cultural practice, it is false belief and involves the violent abuse and torture of women and girls by pathetic and perverted individuals.”
He described those associated with ritualistic murder and torture as “cowards”.“These violent acts are against our values as a nation and are completely unacceptable,” he said, thanking the “brave people” who rescued the child.
"The nation needs more of these unsung heroes who do the right thing, even when it means standing up against people in their own communities,” O’Neill added. “At the same time, any community leaders who allow this abuse to continue are just as bad as the men who carry out the crimes.”
The victim, nicknamed Justice, is now recovering well from her injuries, according to an updated statement from the foundation.
“After Justice heals she will be taken to a safe place where she will receive loving care and ongoing counseling for the trauma she experienced. She will not be returned to the village where she was tortured,” it read.
Justice has been targeted by witch hunters before and her mother was reportedly burned alive on Mount Hagen in 2013. On Friday, the governor of Enga province appealed for locals to stamp out sorcery accusations, which he said have resulted in attacks on at least 20 women in the space of one month.
“I condemn this violence and these false accusations. The accusations must stop now. The torturing and murdering must stop now. Enough is enough,” governor Peter Ipatas said.