Researching sorcery accusation related violence in PNG

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Sorcery accusation related violence is a significant concern across many parts of Papua New Guinea (PNG) today. It leads to death, torture, displacement of people and pervasive fear and insecurity.

Following the highly publicized deaths of two women accused of sorcery in 2013 and the national hauskrai protest calling for an end to violence against women, the PNG Government repealed the Sorcery Act 1971 and created a new provision in the Criminal Code Act 1974 to make killing a person on account of sorcery accusation a capital offence.

Then in 2015 the PNG government approved the Sorcery National Action Plan, which adopts a holistic approach to overcoming sorcery related violence. It establishes a collective and integrated response from government, civil society and churches across a range of different sectors including health, education and justice.

This seminar will outline a four year collaborative action research project that is designed to understand the nature of sorcery accusation related violence in PNG, and to inform the ongoing efforts within and outside of government to overcome it. It will outline some of the methodological challenges to data collection in PNG and the ways these are being navigated, as well as presenting findings from the initial six month of research.

About the Speaker

Miranda Forsyth is an Associate Professor at RegNet and also a Fellow at SSGM in the College of Asia and Pacific at ANU. In July 2015 she completed a three year ARC Discovery funded project to investigate the impact of intellectual property laws on development in Pacific Island countries.

The broad focus of Miranda’s research is investigating the possibilities and challenges of the inter-operation of state and non-state justice and regulatory systems. She also works on the issue of how best to localize or vernacularize the foreign legal norms and procedures. Such norms are often required to be transplanted into developing countries, for example due to international or multilateral treaty obligations.

At present her focus is on examining these issues in the context of both the protection of traditional knowledge and introduction of western intellectual property regimes, and also the regulation of sorcery and witchcraft related violence in Melanesia. Her research has had a strong focus on Vanuatu to date, but in the last few years she has also researched other countries in the Pacific islands region, particularly PNG, Fiji and Samoa.

For more detail, visit her profile.