DP97 Sorcery accusation related violence in Papua New Guinea: The impact of SARV on children

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 97

By Miranda Forsyth, Philip Gibbs, William Kipongi and Ibolya Losoncz

October 2021

This discussion paper details three main ways children are impacted by sorcery accusation related violence (SARV) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) today. First, it explains that infant and childhood mortality and illness are a major trigger of accusations of sorcery. Second, it identifies a newish and concerning trend of children in PNG being accused of possessing sorcery or being inhabited by a malevolent entity and subjected to mistreatment and harm. This parallels a shift in sub-Saharan African nations towards accusations being made increasingly against children rather than the elderly. Both boys and girls are accused, frequently as a result of one of their parents or close relatives having been accused, due to the belief that sorcery is somehow ‘passed on’ to children. Third, children are often severely indirectly impacted by SARV as a result of their parents or family members being accused. This can result in trauma as well as displacement and ongoing stigma. There are also wider societal implications arising from fear and mutual suspicion flowing from SARV that is damaging for children in particular.

Forsyth, M., Gibbs, P., Kipongi, W. & Losoncz, I. 2021, ‘Sorcery accusation related violence in Papua New Guinea: The impact of SARV on children’, Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 97, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University, Canberra.

Lydia Papandrea

Lydia is the Managing Editor of Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies and Co-editor of the DevPolicy Blog.