Monday, March 3, 2014

A Salem Situation in Papua New Guinea

20-year-old Kepari Leniata was burned alive after being accused of witch craft. Sounds like The Crucible, right? Well, this didn't happen in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, it happened last year in Papua New Guinea.

The abuse of women in Papua New Guinea is not a new problem, but the increase in its severity has caused nationwide concern. Yahoo News found that "more than two thirds of women report being subject to domestic violence". This shocking statistic has been the case in Papua New Guinea for at least the past twenty years and nothing has changed.

"Rasta was accused of sorcery by the people in her village after the death of a local young man in 2003. She was set upon by a crowd at his funeral then beaten and strangled before she escaped. She lost her hand in the attack. (Photograph by Vlad Sokhin)"
"'Sorcery' is often used as a pretext to mask abuse of women", says  Amnesty International. This shows that people often have alternative motives behind their accusations of witchcraft. This parallels events in The Crucible, during the Salem witch trials. In Salem, people accused others of witchcraft for revenge, acquisition of property, jealousy etc. People in Papua New Guinea are acting in similar ways, covering up their actions with sorcery.

The citizens of Salem were not protected from these accusations under any Constitution, therefore making these accusations easily to legitimize, and the people of Papua New Guinea are not protected either, but on the contrary, their attackers are protected under the Sorcery Act of 1971. This act says that the accusation of sorcery is considered enough defense in murder cases. This strong connection to The Crucible is concerning because many countries, like the United States, have advanced towards providing more civil liberties to their citizens, while Papua New Guinea seems to be stuck in 1692,  time with much injustice as illustrated by The Crucible. How did Papua New Guinea end up so behind?

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