Woman burned alive in PNG over claims she killed boy with sorcery


Children of the primitive Andai tribe of hunter-gatherers wander in a clearing near Kaiam village in the remote East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea, 05 July 2007.


Torsten Blackwood

A young mother has been stripped naked, tortured with a hot iron, doused with petrol and burned alive in Papua New Guinea (PNG) over claims she was a sorceress.

Schoolchildren were among a crowd who watched the killing of the woman, 20, named — according to the Associated Press — as Kepari Leniata, on a pile of rubbish topped with car tires.

Villagers had reportedly claimed that she killed a 6-year-old boy through sorcery. She reportedly herself had an 8-month-old daughter.

Some of the bystanders took photographs and several were published on the front pages of the country's main newspapers, The National and Post-Courier.

Police officers and a fire truck were chased away when they tried to intervene, Agence France-Presse reported

According to the Australian Associated Press, PNG's prime minister has condemned the slaying in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen.

Peter O'Neill said in a statement:

"No one commits such a despicable act in the society that all of us, including Kepari, belong to. Barbaric killings connected with alleged sorcery. Violence against women because of this belief that sorcery kills. 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."

The US embassy in the PNG capital Port Moresby strongly condemned the "brutal murder" as evidence of "pervasive gender-based violence".

There is a widespread belief in black magic as a cause of misfortune, illness, accidents or death in the impoverished South Pacific island nation, AFP wrote.

PNG passed a Sorcery Act in 1971 to criminalize the practice, but the country's law reform commission was looking to repeal it after a rise in attacks on suspected sorcerers.

Local priest, David Piso, reportedly told The National newspaper that many innocent people had been killed:

"Sorcery and sorcery-related killings are growing and the government needs to come up with a law to stop such practice."

PNG is also said to be the most culturally diverse nation on earth, with over 800 languages spoken by the population of nearly six million, many of them living in remote highland and island communities.