Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

NZ's Congolese community condemns parents who blamed abuse on witchcraft

The Auckland District Court was told the man would hit his stepdaughter until she got into a very cold bath where she came 'close to hypothermia'. Picture / Nick Reed
The Auckland District Court was told the man would hit his stepdaughter until she got into a very cold bath where she came 'close to hypothermia'. Picture / Nick Reed

The parents who abused their teenage daughter because they thought she was a witch have been condemned by the leader of New Zealand's Congolese community.

Francious Kayembe said exorcisms and witchcraft were not common in the Congo, though the practices did happen in some sections of the community there.

However, it did not happen in New Zealand and abuse of any kind towards children was not accepted, said Kayembe, the president of the Auckland chapter of the African Communities Forum.

Yesterday, two parents were sent to jail for forcing their then 15-year-old daughter to take freezing baths, hitting her and cutting her hair because they thought she was possessed.

The woman came to New Zealand in 2007 as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the man, the girl's stepfather, is from the Republic of the Congo.

When the couple were sentenced yesterday for a slew of charges relating to the abuse which began in 2010 and continued until June 2014, the court heard how the man would hit his stepdaughter until she got into a very cold bath and forced her to stay in it for long periods while her mother stood by.

"I'm satisfied that she came close to hypothermia at times," Judge Rob Ronayne said. "She stopped counting at about 30 such baths."

The man also forcibly cut the girl's hair and told the woman to braid what was left to hide the bald patches. He also hit her and verbally assaulted her.

The man was sentenced to 2 years and three months in prison and the woman was sentenced to one year and nine months.

Kayembe said he was disappointed to learn about the offending because it had no place in New Zealand.

"It's not something everyone in the Congo does or believes - it's not common practice but it's something that can happen."

He said in the Congo, exorcisms didn't happen in mainline Catholic churches, but rather in "Revival Churches" where a pastor would recommend practices, like beating a child with a tree branch, to rid them of demons.

The African Communities Forum held workshops to help educate new arrivals on what the laws and cultures were in New Zealand, Kayembe said.

They also wanted to work more closely with the Government on identifying families who were struggling to fit in and help them understand what was not acceptable and why.

- NZ Herald

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