Women In Papua New Guinea Being Tortured For Allegedly Practicing Witchcraft, Causing AIDS-Related Deaths

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Some women in Papua New Guinea are being accused of practicingwitchcraft to cause AIDS-related deaths among young people in thecountry, officials and researchers have said recently, AFP/France24 reports. A recent analysis released by the Centre for Independent Studiesin Australia said, "Sorcery, witchcraft and other supernatural forcesare widely blamed for causing HIV/AIDS" in Papua New Guinea. It addedthat "[a]ccusations of sorcery have resulted in torture and murder" ofsome women. Research fellow Miranda Tobias wrote in the analysis thatthere are "reports of women being tortured for days in efforts toextract confessions." Such forms of torture include being "beaten,stabbed, cut with knives, sexually assaulted and burnt with hot irons,"Tobias wrote. According to the analysis, it is "estimated that therehave been 500 such attacks in the past year."

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Joe Kanekane of the Papua New Guinea Law and Justice SectorSecretariat said, "People believe a witch would behave in a certainway, would walk in a certain way," he said, adding, "That's all thebasis that they have, and there's realistically no tangible substanceto it." According to Kanekane, "They don't actually see the womantransform herself into a python or whatever it is (witches arereputedly capable of). Witchcraft is embedded in people's perceptions,embedded in their way of life."

Carol Kidu, Papua New Guinea'sonly female member of Parliament, said, "Sorcery permeates manysocieties in Papua New Guinea, and these young deaths from HIV/AIDS areunexplained, and so they attach it to sorcery, they make itwitchcraft." Military doctor Roselyne Wia said the only way to stemthis trend would be to "educate the village leaders and get the messagedown to the grassroots." According to a recent United Nations report,Papua New Guinea accounts for 90% of HIV cases in the Oceania region.High levels of sexual violence against women and inadequate access tosex education has contributed to the spread of the virus, according tothe U.N. report. An estimated 60,000 people in the country were livingwith HIV in 2005 (Bartlett, AFP/France24, 7/23).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and signup for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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