The Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women stands in solidarity with the North Bougainville Human Rights Committee (NBHRC) in condemning and demanding an end to sorcery-related killings of innocent women in Papua New Guinea.
A recent press statement released by NBHRC strongly denounced the beheading of Helen Rumbali, a women’s rights activist who was the leader of the South Bougainville Women’s Federation. Before her death Rumbali was victimised and denied the opportunity to defend herself against allegations of sorcery in Court.
“This barbaric act is yet another example of the unrelenting violence that women and girls are subjected to in Papua New Guinea. In this instance, our sister who was advocating for human rights and the empowerment of women in Bougainville has been mercilessly executed on the pretext that she was engaging in witchcraft. Helen Rumbali was a person who dedicated her life to the betterment and development of Bougainville”, said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and Chairperson of the Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women.
“Women who stand up against misogyny and violence to try and help other women are being accused of sorcery in order to try and intimidate and silence them.”
There has been a marked increase in reported cases of sorcery-related killings and maiming this year. In February 2013, a woman was burnt to death in front of hundreds of onlookers at Mt Hagen. On 28 March 2013, Amnesty International reports that six women and a man were abducted and tortured as part of a “witch hunt” after being accused of practising witchcraft. The fate of the women remains unknown.
“Helen Rumbali’s murder is the latest atrocity in this war on women” said Ali. “The Government of Papua New Guinea must immediately condemn these killings and take all measures for the immediate disarmament of all civilians, including ex-combatants.”
“The Government must also immediately review the Sorcery Act, which is often used to mitigate the murders and assaults of vulnerable women. We call on the Government to develop progressive legislation and policies to ensure the protection of women and girls and the prevention of violence perpetrated against them. ” added Ali.
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