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.


Related Care2 Coverage

The World Reacts To Saudi Arabia’s Witch Hunt

Irish Women Enslaved For Decades, Government Finally Admits Involvement

Iowa Republicans Think It’s A Good Idea To Put Rape Victims In Jail


Photo Credit: thinkstock


Patricia Harris
John Taylor1 years ago

Is this year really 2016?! Because all this medieval crap has no place in today's world!!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

what century is this again? wow

Karen B.
Karen B4 years ago

How barbaric and heinous.!!!1

Cassandra S.
Cassandra S4 years ago

Elle P,
The article was not pushing the "abortion agenda", it was giving several examples of the struggles women still face in the 21st century. You are the one turning this into an abortion issue.

Angie V.
Angie V4 years ago

Just finding anything to hurt people or animals... how sad...

Carla van der Meer

@Xan A, my previous comment may as well be directed at you as well. Hatred of women is everywhere around us, whether YOU see it or not, the rest of us do. We are still objectified, diminished and pushed around. So long as we are merely the sum of our (body) parts, and politicians tell us how and when to use our bodies, we are not equal.

Liliana Garcia
Liliana G4 years ago

Shalvah: I agree with John H. It might appear far fetched but if you delve beneath the surface you'll see women are not suffering the same physical tortures because they have been overpowered by other means. The ones needed to conform the elite are as tough and ruthless as men, women within the middle and working class all the time are listening to a mixed message of living with a certain body to make it in the glamorous professions OR or go back to the kitchen to do the cooking. This is all concocted by the corporate moguls, mostly white males. In the meantine USA gov keeps the children of illegal immigrant women and sends them back to their countries of origin! This is a complete takeover of the human female body and its offspring. Burning isn't necessary under such conditions.

Carla van der Meer

@Shalvah L, don't you know that misogyny is a universal theme? It is certainly well represented in the US, all you need do is look at the women's issues is Care2 ( and, well, EVERYWHERE) to know that the GOP are working night and day to take away what women have worked so hard to gain. Please do not delude yourself.

John Hablinski
John Hablinski4 years ago

Shalvah, Misogyny is very much alive and well in the US and one needn’t strain oneself in a struggle to find many, many examples. Don’t expect people totting signs saying “I HATE WOMEN” the situation is much more subtle than that. We pay them less than men, we expect them to work full time and the come home and work a second shift as wife, mother & housekeeper. Many religions enforce the tenet that a woman is subservient to her husband in all things, and of course we cannot forget the Republican Party’s “War on Women” wherein among other indignities they want to take possession of her uterus and the fruits thereof. This in no way should be considered an exhaustive litany of our ill treatment of women and no the US may not be the world’s most misogynistic nation but we are a long way from being the least.

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D4 years ago

Strange how a woman accused of having supernatural powers is a sorceress, but the "glassman", who also claims to have supernatural powers, isn`t accused of being a sorcerer. Hmm !