Richard Shears, Daily Mail (London), November 28, 2008
The Papua New Guinea jungle has given up one of its darkest secrets—the systematic slaughter of every male baby born in two villages to prevent future tribal clashes.
By virtually wiping out the ‘male stock’, tribal women hope they can avoid deadly bow-and-arrow wars between the villages in the future.
‘Babies grow into men and men turn into warriors,’ said Rona Luke, a village wife who is attending a special ‘peace and reconciliation’ meeting in the mountain village of Goroka.
‘It’s because of the terrible fights that have brought death and destruction to our villages for the past 20 years that all the womenfolk have agreed to have all new-born male babies killed,’ said Mrs Luke.
‘The women have had enough of men engaging in tribal conflicts and bringing misery to them.’
The sensational claims recall the Biblical story of the Old Testament pharaoh who ordered all midwives to kill Israelite baby boys because he wanted to ensure there were never enough young men to fight in an army against the Egyptians.
Mrs Luke said that the village women agreed that if they stopped producing males, allowing only female babies to survive, their tribe’s stock of boys would go down and there would be no men in future to fight.
A resident of Agibu village, Mrs Luke said she did not know how many male babies were killed by being smothered, but it had happened to all males over a 10 year period—and she suggested it was still happening.
Choking back tears she added: ‘It’s a terrible, unbearable crime, but the women had to do it.
‘The women have really being forced into it as it’s the only means available to them as women to bring an end to tribal fights.’
Confirming the shocking infanticide claims, Mrs Kipiyona Belas from the rival Amosa village, told a newspaper that getting food for their families was difficult because husbands were fighting other tribes with bows-and- arrows and spears.
Often the men did not come back, having been killed on the ‘battle field’, usually a clearing in the jungle.
Now, with the help of the Salvation Army and the initiative of local Pastor Michael Hemuno, the tribal women hope the slaughter of babies can end and those men who are still warriors will lay down their weapons and talk peace.
‘We are trying to get them to live peacefully and end all the deaths of young and old,’ said Pastor Hemuno.
Tribal fighting in the region of Gimi, in the country’s Eastern Highlands, has been going on since 1986, many of the clashes arising over claims of sorcery.
Papua New Guinea tribes, who dress up in warrior paint and feathered finery for special occasions, are strong believers in sorcery and often blame their enemies for bringing about deaths through witchcraft.