A young mother accused of sorcery was stripped naked, tortured and burned alive in Papua New Guinea.
BBC reported that a woman named Kepari Leniata, 20, was accused of killing a 6-year-old boy through sorcery. She was then tortured and burned by villagers. In an image that was released, police were unable to intervene due to the sheer number of the villagers who participated in the gruesome attack.
Agence France-Press reported that the boy Leniata was accused of killing was hospitalized for stomach and chess pains. He died on Tuesday.
In the wake of the violent event, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill sent a statement through Australian Associated Press stating: “no one commits such a despicable act.”
“Barbaric killings connected with alleged sorcery. Violence against women because of this belief that sorcery kills,” O’Neill said, according to the AAP. “These are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country. It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with.”
Many people in the island nation still believe in sorcery instead of accepting natural causes of death. Even though the 1971 Sorcery Act outlaws the burning of alleged witches, many still use this practice. In 2009, a woman was burned alive for alleged witchcraft.
Zama Coursen-Neff, director of Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division, said that this incident and other similar violent act are becoming a “troubling trend.”
She wrote on her blog:
“In Papua New Guinea, research indicates, two-thirds of women experience domestic violence, and 50 percent of women have experienced forced sex. The Australian development agency AUSAID just issued a new report identifying violence against women as a major barrier to Papua New Guinea’s development.”