Witch hunts, or the persecution and killing of mainly women for the supposed use of supernatural powers to create harm, occur in many parts of the world. They occur in parts of India, in the Pacific islands, some countries of Africa and parts of Amazonia. The alleged witches are persecuted in most degrading ways, such as being forced to eat excreta, paraded naked; tortured to extract ‘confessions’; deprived of their land and other property; driven out of their villages and communities; and often killed in gruesome ways, such as “necklacing”(having a burning tire put around the woman’s neck). Some men and even children have been persecuted in witch hunts. In some countries accused women have been lodged in camps that are special prisons, where they are further persecuted and exploited. Any woman in the affected communities can be declared a witch; thus, such persecution is a constant threat to all these women.
Persecution and killing of women as witches constitute gross violations of their human rights. Besides being gross violations of human rights, witch hunts also retard development. Women’s agency, so important for development, is seriously inhibited. Migrants are scared to invest in their own villages, for fear for being accused of having secured their income through using supernatural powers and causing harm to others. Women are scared to do better in business or even in having their children do better in school.
Social science analyses show that beliefs in witches function to explain misfortunes, virtually always in the context of significant economic and social transformations. Such processes are routinely gendered, transferring land and social power, including over knowledge and control over resources from women to men, and thus creating or strengthening patriarchy. It is further noted that there is widespread spiritual insecurity in these ongoing structural transformations.
Official data from police records in India show that annually more than 150 persons, mainly women, have been killed in the period 2000-2016. NGOs and social scientists active in opposing witch hunts point out that this is an underestimation, since many killings may be shown as murders due to property disputes, while witch persecution remains in the background. There do not seem to be similar official data for other countries.
We believe all women can be independent and free from violence within home and society.
Our Mission and Objectives
We, representatives of feminist organizations and other Civil Societies Organizations, social scientists and concerned citizens of the world, are coming together to call to END WITCH HUNTS. The objectives of this alliance are three-fold:
Campaign against witch hunts and the associated belief systems;
Support the activities of women’s organizations other civil society organizations and individuals advocating end witch hunts; and
Conduct research on witch persecutions/killings in order to draw policy attention to the necessity of ending this evil practice and ensure human rights to the alleged/accused witches.
Our vision is of a justice based equitable society, where women and other marginalized people pursue their lives and livelihoods with dignity and freedom from violence, discrimination and exclusion
The Founding Members
The Sanneh Institute, Ghana
Director Postgraduate Studies, Law School, Staffordshire University, UK