A young girl has been rescued from tribespeople in Papua New Guinea who tortured her with heated knives, claiming that she had committed sorcery.
A six-year-old girl is recovering in hospital after becoming the latest victim of sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea.
Tribespeople in Enga province attacked the girl with hot knives, inflicting extensive wounds and burns. They accused her of committing “sanguma,” as witchcraft is known locally.
The girl’s mother is believed to be Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old who was murdered in the Mount Hagen area in 2013. Lenaita, who was accused of being a “witch” and killing a boy with “sorcery,” was dragged onto a pile of petrol-soaked tires and burned alive.
“Part of the urban legend of sanguma, that women are witches, includes the belief that this thing can pass from mother to child,” Lutheran missionary Anton Lutz told Australia’s ABC News.
“Of all the children in the village, this one was singled out because of her parentage and they believed she was responsible for bad things happening in the village,” he said.
Lutz was part of a rescue party which saved the girl from the mob. The rescue was organized by the PNG Tribal Foundation, which works to tackle problems including gender-based violence and a lack of education in Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill condemned the attack and beliefs in sorcery as “absolute rubbish.” He praised those who rescued the girl.
“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 stated in a Facebook post.
“The men behind these murders are cowards who are looking for someone to blame because of their own failure in life. These violent acts are against our values as a nation and are completely unacceptable.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said that police are investigating the incident and “anyone who tried to impede the lawful investigation will be arrested.”
Mob violence against individuals accused of sorcery is a common occurrence in areas of Papua New Guinea, where rates of family and sexual violence are some of the highest in the world.
The accusations of witchcraft often coincide with a death in the community and are more likely to be levelled against those at the bottom of the social, tribal or clan hierarchy, in particular women.
According to a 2015 report by Human Rights Watch, “sorcery accusations may link to family violence, for example, if a woman wishes to seek a family protection order or make a criminal complaint, her husband could retaliate by accusing her of sorcery, thereby cutting her off from family and community support.”