An Australian academic says some of the women in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands being attacked on account of sorcery accusations are those adopting non-traditional roles.
The comment was made during last week's conference on sorcery-related violence held at the University of Goroka in Eastern Highlands province.
The convenor of the State Society and Governance in Melanesia Programme at the Australian National University, Nicole Haley, has done research with the Duna-speaking clans in the Lake Kopiago area.
She says men are leaving the community to seek work and so more women are doing things like cutting the bush and digging drains as well as living independently.
"When these women were being interrogated they were being asked, you know, 'Where are your guns, where are your army uniforms' and things. And so they were through the interrogation being accused of behaving like men."
Nicole Haley says some of the women had refused the sexual advances of older men or to marry a relative of a deceased husband.