29 Jan 2007

Warning that PNG AIDS epidemic could mean more sorcery-related violence

6:04 am on 29 January 2007

The Director of the Melanesian Institute in Papua New Guinea is warning that the spread of HIV-AIDS there could lead to more claims of sorcery and an increase in violence towards women.

Hermann Spingler, who is based in Goroka, in the the Eastern Highlands, says that unexplained deaths are often attributed to witchcraft in parts of the Highlands.

He says that if people think a relative has died for no obvious reason, they might launch a witch-hunt.

"We have a dramatic - or might go into a dramatic - increase in witchcraft accusations because people who get infected by HIV and AIDS most of the time don't tell their families. But when they die, then we have a problem: then the witch-hunt is on."

He says that belief in witchcraft was once mainly confined to Chimbu province, but is increasing in Papua New Guinea as accused people flee to other regions and take their beliefs with them.

The bodies of three women were discovered last week in Goroka, who police believe were killed after being accused of sorcery.