Two women have been brutally attacked in Port Moresby by up to 20 men after being accused of witchcraft, in the latest instance of sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea.
The women were tortured and burnt with hot irons for hours on Sunday in a settlement at 5 Mile in the capital.
One woman managed to escape and ran down a hill before she was rescued by police. She said she was being interrogated by the male perpetrators and pressured to admit to the killing of another woman who died earlier in the week.
Police found the second woman badly wounded and bound with ropes, lying in a garden. Both had very severe injuries.
Community leader Elliot Raphael said the incident was shocking and that a solution needed to be found to address the issue of violence against women immediately.
“All we know was that the ladies were picked up in the morning and interrogated, and from there we don’t know what happened before they were tortured and now this,” said Raphael.
The women were treated on the scene and taken to hospital. St John Ambulance chief executive Mathew Cannon confirmed the women were being treated for serious head and leg injuries. They will receive counselling support.
National Capital District (NCD) Metropolitan Supt Gideon Ikumu said up to 20 men fled before police arrived at the scene, but that the identities of the men were known to them.
“I strongly condemn these crimes and request the families and relatives of the two victims to come forward and provide their statements,” he said.
Sorcery violence – known as Sorcery Accusation Related Violence, or SARV – is persistent in PNG. This latest attack prompted outrage among senior police officers and politicians.
“People must change their mindset as we are living in a modern growing city. Police will ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” said Anthony Wagambie Jr, divisional commander NCD and central assistant commissioner.
NCD governor, Powes Parkop said: “I am totally disgusted and disappointed by the actions of the men who tortured the two women in the nation’s capital. I am appalled that men continue to believe and practice such barbaric practices in this day and age. The fact that it could still happen in the capital city shows we are a long way away from ending gender-based violence, and sorcery accusatory violence in particular.”
He said there was an urgent need to fund the National Gender Based Violence Secretariat and allocate funds to get the National Gender Based Violence strategy 2016-2026 rolled out as soon as possible.
“The strategy has been developed and these barbaric acts are allowed to continue because we have not funded the implementation of the strategy. It means we must multiply our efforts … to stop such violence and change behaviour and attitude. We are too slow at all levels.”