They Still Burn Sorceresses in Papua New Guinea, Don’t They? (VIDEOS)

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 8, 2013 10:22 AM EST

The Witchcraft Act of 1735 ceased being a law in the 16th Century in Great Britain, although as late as 1811, Barbara Zdunk of Prussia was executed for witchcraft, the last one on record.

However, reports said that in Papua New Guinea, they still burn sorceresses. Kepari Leniata, 20, was stripped naked, tied up and doused with gasoline in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands on Wednesday by the relatives of a boy whom she allegedly killed.

She was then thrown in fire in front of hundreds of people, the Post Courier newspaper reports.

Her alleged victim, a six-year-old boy, died the previous day. Reports said that Kepari admitted to killing the boy who was admitted to a hospital with stomach and chest pains on Tuesday, but eventually died.

A fire truck responded to the burning, but the firefighters were chased by the people. The PNG police said they will treat the incident as murder and is preparing charges against those responsible for the torching.

In response to the incident, PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement, "It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with."

Many Papuans still believe in sorcery and the practice of witchcraft, particularly in PNG highlands, according to an Oxfam report in 2010. They blame misfortune, illness, accidents or deaths on witchcraft,

Several incidents of killing of people, mostly women, were recorded in 2009, attributed to the victims being suspected sorcerers.

In 2008, a similar incident happened in Kenya, resulting in the death of 11 people.

There are no credible statistics on the number of alleged witches killed or burned in Europe with estimates ranging from 35,000 to millions. About 77 to 80 per cent of those killed or burned were women because of popular lore and fairy tales depicting witches as old women dressed in black gowns.

One of the most famous witch burning victims is Frenchwoman Joan of Arc, who eventually became a Catholic saint and a symbol of courage among women.

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