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Papua New Guinea: Violence Against Women Accused of Sorcery
Sorcery is believed to account for sudden or unexplained death or illness: the end result is often that someone is killed for another person's unexplained death. Every year hundreds of people are put to death or tortured because someone thinks they are responsible, for a death or a disease, using black magic. Women are six times more likely to be accused of sorcery than men, according to Amnesty International.
Paulus recently helped a woman accused of sorcery and managed to hide her, together with her daughters, in a safe location. Because of the assistance she provided, Paulus has been threatened by some members of the community. “They say I am the one who helped the sorcerer. I am stigmatized because I help innocent women and their children.”
On one occasion, she sought assistance from the UN Human Rights office in Papua New Guinea regarding a woman and her four daughters who had been tortured and raped after they were accused of sorcery. “The UN Human Rights office helped them relocate to a safe location,” she says.
Paulus works full time with the Highlands Women’s Human Rights Defenders Network. The Network focuses on issues related to sorcery accusations and killings, tribal conflicts, and violence against women at home and in the community. A number of female members of the Network, including Paulus, are subjected to deadly threats every day because of their work.
Aware of the risks she faces, she continues her work with courage and commitment. “Helping women accused of sorcery is the right thing to do,” she stresses. “They are suffering with hardly any support and people don’t want to go near them.”
“I am inspired by the courage of women,” she says. “Women accused of sorcery are victims of extreme abuse and horrendous killings.” The stigma is passed on to their children. “I have seen their children being displaced, abandoned and stigmatized,” she concludes. “I am aware of that plight and that is why I want to help.”