Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old Papua New Guinean woman, was accused of witchcraft and burned alive on Wednesday. Relatives of a recently deceased 6-year-old boy alleged that Leniata’s sorcery was responsible for his death. For this crime, Leniata was stripped naked, tortured with an iron rod, doused in gasoline and set on fire. Pictures of this horrific event ran on the front page of both of Papua New Guinea’s daily newspapers. According to the Time report, “Local police and firefighters claim they were unable to help the women due to the large crowds that gathered to watch.” A Courier Mail article claims that onlookers were snapping pictures with their cellphones.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
Peter O’Neill, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, commented that, “It is reprehensible that women, the old and weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with.” Rashida Manjoo, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women, said, “Sorcery allegations were usually used as a way of depriving women of land and property, while misfortune or death were used as a reason for the accusation.” While the US embassy in Port Moresby has issued a statement condemning the killing as evidence of “Pervasive gender-based violence” in Papua New Guinea, it will take more than international disapproval to overhaul the justice system of Papua New Guinea and reverse the culture of sexism and superstition.
Images via Conservation.org and Telegraph
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