PNG needs national response to sorcery violence - Oxfam
A call for a national focus in Papua New Guinea on what is fostering increased sorcery-related violence.
Oxfam Papua New Guinea says there is need for a national discussion on why sorcery related violence appears to be getting worse in the country.
The Oxfam country director, Esmie Sinapa, told Don Wiseman that poverty and land issues are often at the crux of allegations of sorcery.
ESMIE SINAPA: We find as people are trying to explain unexplained death or try to acquire land or property, they tend to accuse honourable members of the community, especially women and people with disability, of sorcery practices so that they can have access to them. This is an area where we in the last two years find it needs to be brought to the fore, maybe it had happened in the past, but because we now have this focus programme, we are finding that there are a lot of things that need to be brought to the attention of the government, to the attention of the other partners around, understanding the sorcery, the impact on it, how people perceive that and try to use that to address community issues. As a result of that violence we have seen the increase of violence among honourable communities like honourables, like women and children, and the elderly and the people with disability.
DON WISEMAN: These people who are the victims of these sorcery claims, are often in control of the land at that point and someone else wants it.
ES: In some areas it will be around land and yes, they would have some ownership or titles around the land, but in many areas we find as well is that when there are unexplained deaths because of lack of facilities and because of a lack of explanation around the diseases, they blame the women and the elderly.
DW: There are studies being done at the ANU and they are very much pointing the fingers at factors like poverty. So this fighting over land is that one aspect of this poverty issue?
ES: It is one aspect of the poverty. I think fighting over land is not only about the reach, trying to get access to land, it's also about control, it's also about people not happy with other community members and use this approach, this process to get rid of other community members who are a barrier to them accessing the land or the resources they want. There are many factors. What we are saying, what we are calling for is that we need to understand sorcery in a more focused effort instead of just looking at as part of a bigger violence problem. There are different factors of violence that are prevalent in PNG. Sorcery is one of them. In the last two years we are realising that this is one area that we must be focused on and to find out what are the root causes, what are the belief systems that are now used in a western concept to acquire land, to acquire resources. Is is a power issue? Is it just a belief system? Those are the questions that are coming up now. So what I'm calling for is there has to be a national focus. Call it an emergency or call it a national response, but we need to bring sorcery to the fore of the discussions at the national level.
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