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Report calls for laws against witchdoctors

Glasmeri (witch-finder) recanting her accusations (Anton Lutz)
A glasmeri witch-finder repudiates her previous accusations against an alleged 'sorcerer'(Anton Lutz)


‘Sorcery accusation-related violence in Papua New Guinea: The role of glasman/glasmeri as catalysts of accusation and violence’ by Miranda Forsyth, William Kipongi, Anton Lutz, Philip Gibbs, Fiona Hukula & Ibolya Losoncz, Issues Paper 36, National Research Institute of PNG. July 2021. Link here to the full research report

PORT MORESBY – A National Research Institute report says many incidents of sorcery-accusation violence in Papua New Guinea are triggered by glasman or, less commonly, female glasmeri.

A glasman or glasmeri (witch doctor) is a person skilled in interpreting and using supernatural forces, including the identification of people who are sorcerers.

They are often “perceived as providing the definitive proof needed to overcome the doubt about the use of sorcery … and as such, morally enable recourse to violence,” the report on sorcery-accusation related violence (SARV) says.

It states that glasman and glasmeri play a significant role in triggering violent responses to suspicions of sorcery, being involved in almost one-third of all violent incidents documented.

Sorcery sign“There is a range of motivations for seeking out or listening to a glasman/glasmeri,” the report says.

“In the case of sickness or death, it is widely said that ‘there is no such thing as a natural death’.

“It is normal for people to ask not only what was responsible for the death, but who was the cause.”

The research paper describes the role of glasman/glasmeri, their motivation (which is usually financial) and discusses how they offer ‘proof’ of sorcery that they claim comes from dreams, prayer, meditation or rituals.

Due to the aura of authority they invoke, the people they accuse of being sorcerers find it difficult to disprove their pronouncements.

Unfortunately, their actions can lead to individuals being falsely accused and face stigmas that may last a lifetime.

In some cases there can be physical violence resulting in serious injury to innocent people, and even their death.

Many practice their craft for their personal financial advantage, however some genuinely believe they wield supernatural powers.

Under PNG criminal law, glasman and glasmeri can be charged for aiding, abetting and inciting criminal acts and courts have the power to issue orders to stop them identifying people as sorcerers.

Sorcery1The report, however, identified only one instance of these laws being enforced, and in this case the accused escaped from a holding cell before facing the court.

Accordingly, the report proposes that the conduct of these people be better regulated to address the urgent issue of sorcery-accusation related violence in PNG.

It also strongly recommends that serious consideration be given to creating a specific offence in the criminal law prohibiting glasman and glasmeri from directly or indirectly identifying people as sorcerers.


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