Sorcery accusation related violence is seen as a growing problem in PNG and has attracted domestic and international calls for an effective government response. It is implicated in a range of negative developmental outcomes, including economic disempowerment, poor health, insecurity, persecution, and violence including torture and murder. What’s more, these negative outcomes impact disproportionately upon women and most acutely affect women who lack male protection and are consequently more vulnerable to sorcery accusations.
In response to calls for action to deal with the problem of sorcery accusation related violence, both the PNG government and a broad range of civil society, faith based and international organisations have started to put into place legislative reforms, projects and programs, but there has been an over reliance from the government on the preventative and deterrent effects of the state criminal justice system.
To combat this, the Department of Justice, together with a range of partner organisations, have developed a Sorcery National Action Plan (“SNAP”) which sets out a comprehensive and holistic response to the problem. The SNAP provides for the development of training packages for a wide range of service providers and local community governance structures, but at present there is not sufficient research to identify what types of training is needed and what is likely to be effective.
This research project will support PNG partners to address sorcery accusation related violence by developing and communicating a body of evidence regarding which interventions break the link between sorcery and violence and how they can best be supported. The project will be heavily action-research focussed as it monitors and critiques the implementation of SNAP and its associated interventions.
By Associate Professor Miranda Forsyth
Burning or stabbing people accused of witchcraft conjures up images from hundreds of years ago, yet the practice continues today and is even growing in some remote areas of Papua New Guinea.
Many different types of fear are involved in the expression of this form of violence, and so it is a useful site to investigate the relationship between regulation and fear.
This article first appeared in ‘DevPolicy’ blog on September 29 2017.
Miranda Forsyth is an Associate Professor in the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) in the College of Asia and Pacific at ANU. Prior to coming to...
Fiona Hukula is a Senior Research Fellow & Program Leader of the Building Safer Communities Program at the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute.