There are non-violent ways: Dr Forsyth

Dr Miranda Forsyth has outlined responses that will help change cultural beliefs and the acceptance of violence in communities.

The researcher from the Australian National University is currently doing a four-year major research, partnering with the National Research Institute.

“There are anxieties about sorcery in many parts of Papua New Guinea. But often people can find non-violent ways of dealing with those anxieties,” she shared in an open forum on sorcery accusation related violence yesterday.

She said the second important response is to try to reverse the motivations of those who are involved as violent perpetrators.

“Those who might present themselves as heroes for trying to weed out witches should instead face shame for torturing defenceless women, men and sometimes children.”

She said the media can play a very important role here in bringing about that change.

The third response is the consistent enforcement of the law.

This requires the cooperation of the State, justice system officials and communities as well as those who need to assist State officials in collecting evidence and being prepared to stand as witnesses in court.

“It is very hard for State officials to be able to present cases without being able to draw the support of the communities. There also needs to be strong and consistent statements against sorcery accusation related violence by all leaders in both national and local levels.”

The fourth is that there needs to be pathways to deal with concerns about sorcery anxieties non-violently. That is through dialogue, mediation, medical information, grief counselling and village court processes.

Forsyth adds that positive stories reported in the media about how people deal with these anxieties in non-violent ways will be important models for other communities to follow.

“We encourage the media to seek out these stories and we will try to channel them to you as well so that other people and communities can be able to see and note that they don’t have to deal with such issues in any violent way.”

Dr Forsyth concluded the presentation stating that the Sorcery National Action Plan (SNAP) will need to be better funded first to be implemented.

Annette Kora