Women Arise PNG, a movement working to counter violence against females, said there has been a growth of such incidents particularly in the Highlands.
Under-resourced policing and a lack of willing witnesses remain obstacles to prosecuting cases of sorcery-related attacks in PNG’s courts.
The NGO’s representative Esther Igo said it was proving difficult to change the mindset of PNG communities who believed in sorcery.
She said a lot of innocent people had been accused of sorcery, but that also many were seen to willingly take up practising it.
“Poverty is a driver more for its younger people who now believe and are engaged in sorcery.
“They are acquiring the powers, witchcraft or sorcery powers, because for them it’s a means of making income. People are going to them and saying ‘look, I don’t like this person, here is some money, kill them’,” Igo said.
She said the difficulty of proving sorcery was complicating efforts to legislate about sorcery-related attacks.
Four years ago, parliament repealed the 1971 Sorcery Act which criminalised sorcery and recognised the accusation of sorcery as a defence in murder cases.
Igo said moves to establish a new Sorcery Act to adequately define the problem had stalled, partly because the nature of sorcery made it difficult to prove it has happened.
“Because in a court system it’s evidence based. And because sorcery is very difficult to actually prove that there is a cause, that there is a direct relationship or a direct occurrence, or an event that led to a death, that has been difficult for the government to actually pass an Act.”
Igo explained that in PNG society, there was still a tendency for communities to become suspicious about the cause of deaths, and to attribute them to sorcery-related, or supernatural, causes.
She said it’s going to take a lot of education to change the mindset.
“Sorcery and poverty are very directly related, they’re very close cousins.” - RNZI