Woman Burned Alive For Sorcery: Is Being Female A Death Sentence?
Two women were rescued from being burned alive earlier this week in Papua New Guinea.
An angry mob accused the two elderly women of being sorcerers who killed an 8-year-old girl in the city of Mount Hagen.
From The Telegraph:
A police commander, Teddy Tei, said an angry crowd claimed two elderly women had killed the eight-year-old, but that police believed she had been “gang-raped and killed by two known suspects”.
The suspects were among the crowd attacking the women, who were tied to poles and about to be burnt. Also present was a “glassman” – a man who claimed to have supernatural powers and who had identified the luckless women as sorcerers and claimed they were responsible for the child’s death.
However, a post mortem later revealed the girl had been raped and strangled. Police say the suspects are still at large.
Mount Hagen is the same city where a 20-year-old mother actually was burned at the stake last week.
Kepari Leniata was reportedly stripped naked and tortured with a branding iron, before being tied up, doused with fuel and burnt alive on a pile of trash. She was accused of using sorcery to kill a six-year-old boy.
Even more disturbing are the photos in both of Papua New Guinea’s daily national newspapers, which show hundreds of witnesses watching this gruesome execution, and in some cases taking pictures on their cellphones.
In this case, the law has stepped in and as many as 100 people have been arrested. Police were present at this horrific event but were outnumbered by the mob, and apparently unable to intervene. A fire truck that responded to the incident was also chased away.
About a hundred people have since been arrested.
From The Age:
”Police are now in the process of interviewing them. We will know by today or during the weekend how many are formally charged with murder and how many are released,” provincial police commander Martin Lakari told the National newspaper.
The murder, which the PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, described as ”barbaric”, triggered international outrage.Police said they were treating the torching as murder and preparing charges against those responsible.
This may sound reminiscent of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it is estimated that around 250,000 suspected “witches” were executed. Many of these people (mostly women, but also a few men) were convicted of crimes like causing the deaths of children by “o’erlooking them” or of causing the crops to fail two years in a row. Whenever a fire broke out and swept through the thatched-roof cottages, a female suspect was sought out and executed.
The publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486 spurred this massacre. “When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil” it declared. In 1563, a German cleric, Johann Weyer, announced, “Witches are women who because of their sex are inconstant and of dubious faith.”
That was then, and this is now. Or is it?
Is today’s war on women in the western world so different from these events in Papua New Guinea, or the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries?
For example: we learned recently that the Irish government has admitted that, for more than seven decades, it was in collusion with the so-called Magdalene laundries operated by religious congregations that kept generations of women and girls (as young as 12) in virtual enslavement.
Other instances of the ongoing war on women: Republican legislators in Iowa think it’s a good idea to put rape victims in jail. In Virginia, women are being forced to have ultrasounds before they can have an abortion. The state’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, has signed into law Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law, making the state the eighth to require such a procedure.
As I see it, misogyny continues to be alive and well worldwide.
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