3 Dec 2013

PNG sorcery workshop to draft plan to stop violence

6:58 am on 3 December 2013

Overcoming the violence associated with sorcery is the aim of a workshop that starts today in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.

The three-day meeting in the Eastern Highlands capital Goroka brings together members of government, legal practitioners and church organisations, among others, to come up with policy to address a complex issue.

Annell Husband reports from Goroka.

"When Kepari Leniata was stripped, tortured and burned alive before a crowd in February, pictures posted on the internet prompted a clamour for government action from around the world. The murder of the 20-year-old mother was one of an increasing number in PNG due to accusations of sorcery or witchcraft, including the beheading of a teacher and human rights activist, Helen Rumbali, on Bougainville in April. Parliament's subsequent repealing of the controversial Sorcery Act, under which accusations of witchcraft were used as a defence for murder, was lauded as going some way towards preventing that type of crime. But in parts of the country such as the Highlands where sorcery and violence against women are entrenched in the culture, legislation will not be enough to stop people from taking the law into their own hands. This week's workshop, which takes up where one in Australia in June left off, will look at what other measures are needed."