The government of New Guinea passed a law which denounces the use of black magic in 1971, as the dark arts are frequently blamed for various problems such as disease, natural disasters and even poverty. As reported in VICE, some residents believe there have been many superstitious attacks in Papua over the past few months and now concerned citizens have taken matters into their own hands. People have been burned alive, maimed and beheaded as a result. It is mainly women that are singled out of the crowd however men have also been targeted as sorcerers.

The government even tried to help matters by repealing the Sorcery Act; but this hasn’t done much to abate the violence. The local Seeds Theatre Group has launched the project Women not Witches in an attempt to counter superstitions and the violence that is being launched upon women, and it is already starting to save lives.

Two people who attended the Women not Witches workshops recently came to the aid of an older woman who was being attacked for being a witch. They found people terrorizing a woman in a graveyard. According to reports, they were torturing, her burning her , cutting her and beating her for about three hours.

The woman was kidnapped from another state, but managed to escape. On her way home she ran into a group of young men unrelated to her kidnappers who were guarding a graveyard after a burial. The men were weary of the woman, who was foreign and seemed to have no idea where she was, suspected sorcery, and the torture began.

Observers told VICE that the problem is getting worse in the area with young men forming gangs to combat the supposed witches.