Dr Forsyth and colleagues in PNG

Dr Forsyth and colleagues in PNG

Young girl accused of sorcery and tortured in PNG

20th November 2017

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Miranda Forsyth is an Associate Professor at RegNet and also a Fellow at SSGM in the College of Asia and Pacific at ANU. The broad focus of Miranda’s research is investigating the possibilities and challenges of the inter-operation of state and non-state justice and regulatory systems.

At present her focus is on examining these issues in the context of both the protection of traditional knowledge and introduction of western intellectual property regimes, and also the regulation of sorcery and witchcraft related violence in Melanesia. Her research has had a strong focus on Vanuatu to date, but in the last few years she has also researched other countries in the Pacific islands region, particularly PNG, Fiji and Samoa.

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Listen to the ABC News Pacific Beat coverage

Watch ABC News The World coverage

Reports have emerged over the last few days of a case of sorcery accusation related violence taking place against a young girl in Enga province in Papua New Guinea (PNG). These reports have again focussed international attention on the problem of sorcery accusation related violence in PNG.

RegNet’s Miranda Forsyth, a specialist in sorcery accusation related violence in PNG, provided expert commentary in response to this latest case.

In an article in Loop Pacific she explained that although the belief in sorcery is prevalent across PNG, people respond to the fears and anxieties it generates in very different ways. In many places, non-violent approaches are used.

Dr Forsyth explained that “there needs to be pathways to deal with concerns about sorcery anxieties non-violently. That is through dialogue, mediation, medical information, grief counselling and village court processes”.

This latest case has received international attention. ABC News reported further details on 20 November. Regarding Dr Forsyth’s research, they explained that the research team (incorporating academics at the Divine Word University, PNG’s National Research Institute, and the Australian National University) has found that over the past 20 years, there was a​n average of 72 incidents of torture, and 30 deaths reported in local newspapers annually.

However, Dr Forsyth explained that police had only arrested and charged a small number of the perpetrators:

“We found that about only 15 per cent of cases that had been reported in the newspapers resulted in the trial of at least one suspect. Looking at all of those cases, about 15,000 perpetrators have been involved and of those only 115 individuals received sentences.”

On ABC News Pacific Beat and ABC News The World on 20 November, Dr Forsyth provided further expert commentary on the management of this problem in PNG.

She explained that a lack of funding is hindering efforts to combat accusations of sorcery in PNG. Papua New Guinea’s National Executive Council passed the Sorcery National Action Plan in 2015 but it has not been sufficiently implemented with the necessary resources and government co-ordination.

Listen to the ABC News Pacific Beat coverage

Watch ABC News The World coverage

For more detailed information of the results of a recent analysis of 20 years of media reports in PNG, see:

Miranda Forsyth is an Associate Professor at RegNet and also a Fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) program in the College of Asia and Pacific at ANU.

Image provided courtesy of Campaign against sorcery accusation related violence.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet