Papua New Guinea: Daughter beheads father after years of sexual abuse

BANGKOK, Thailand — A remote village has rallied to an 18-year-old girl's defense after she beheaded her father, who she accused of raping her repeatedly, according to a report in Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier newspaper.

The killing took place in the country's interior mountains, one of the poorest and most lawless parts of a tropical nation that is already among the region's least developed. Agence France Presse reports that the girl hacked off her father's head with a bush knife after he repeatedly raped her through the night.

A local pastor, speaking on behalf of the village, contended that the girl "remains in the community" after a justifiable death brought on by the "trauma and evil actions of her father."

The case underscores experts' recent warnings of epidemic-level violence against women in Papua New Guinea. In March, a domestic office of the organization Doctors Without Borders released a study on what it calls "urgent, unmet medical and emotional needs of survivors of family and sexual violence" and noted that "family and sexual violence have long been recognized as an extremely serious problem in Papua New Guinea."

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"In the last 20 years, a great deal of time and resources have been invested in attempts to tackle this issue. Yet almost no progress has been made when it comes to providing essential medical and psychosocial care to survivors," said the report. "This violence … usually occurs in the place where a person should feel safest: their home."

Compared to its neighbors, state control is weak in many parts of jungly Papua New Guinea, which achieved independence from Australia in 1975. Though predominately Christian, animism is rife—as are beliefs in witchcraft that lead to the targeting of women.

A rash of grisly killings of women accused of sorcery prodded the government last month to repeal a "Sorcery Act," which offered a defense for murder if the victim was a sanguma, or witch. The attacks against so-called sanguma sometimes involve sexual mutilation, beheadings and burnings at the stake.

In attempting to rein in unchecked violence, which includes the sorcery killings, the government has mulled restoring the death penalty, a move condemned by Amnesty International.

"The repeal of the Sorcery Act was long overdue and a response to national and global outrage at the violence against women that has taken place in its name," said Isabella Arradon, the group's deputy Asia-Pacific director in a statement. "But we are horrified that the government is attempting to end one form of violence by perpetuating state-sanctioned violence."