The Witch Question in UN CSW, 2023
On 27 July 2023 Ms. Faustina Araba Boakye from Ghana gave a presentation on the Witch Question in UN CSW 2023. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is an official commission of the UN that focuses on women's rights and empowerment and global gender equality. The Commission recognizes that digital technologies have profoundly transformed societies; Promoted innovation and offered unprecedented opportunities that have the potential to accelerate the realization of the 2030 Agenda and advance social development for all; and women and girls are ensured access to lifelong quality education, health-care services, decent work, affordable housing, social protection, especially for those in vulnerable situations.
Mobilising collective action against sorcery accusation related violence in Papua New Guinea and Articulation of Culture in Northeast India.
On 06 June 2023 Alliance organized another webinar on Sorcery Accusation Related Violence (SARV) in Papua New Guinea and around the world: Professor Miranda Forsyth, The Australian National University and With-Hunts and the Interaction of Cultures: Professor Dev Nathan, Visiting Scholar, The New School for Social Research, New York. Professor Forsyth provided detail analysis of how the SARV is a global problem. Her detail presentation gave answers of many questions like how SARV happens, what is its cycle, how victim is waiting for another actual victim, preventive methods etc.
Professor Dev Nathan provided input on how witch hunts exist in different cultures. He concluded that it is necessary to see the interaction of culture and history and one shouldn't see this as just chronological representation, but also simultaneity.
Culture, Capital and Witch Hunts in Meghalaya and Nagaland
On 14 December 2022 Professor Govind Kelkar shared her study on witch hunts in Meghalaya and Nagaland, northeastern states of India.
This study explored social belief and cultural practices as well as economic concerns that give rise to witch violence ritual attacks and yet at the same time, create social and legal spaces for human rights-based discourses questioning the practice of witch hunts and ritual attacks.
Growing patriarchal forces working for fast erosion of matriliny in Meghalaya.
In Nagaland women are excluded from political decision-making, their primary tasks are child-bearing, cleaning, cooking, and agricultural work; while men’s tasks are managing political affairs, hunting, and warfare.
Recent feminist narratives of Naga society present Naga women fearless, tough, intelligent and not coy and timid (story of Longcongla). They also see the role of Christianity in relation to women’s status as problematic
The Alliance Presentation at UN OHCHR
On 27 October 2022 our Alliance members gathered again to discuss our presentation in United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (UN OHCHR). The webinar was chaired by Dr. Simeon Mesaki, Ph.D. (Anthropology). There were three presentations by 1) Dr Samantha Spence, Course Director
School of Justice, Security and Sustainability in Staffordshire University on Drivers, Manifestations, and Emerging Forms of Harmful Practices Related to Accusations of Witchcraft and Ritual Attacks (HPAWR); 2) Dr. Govind Kelkar Professor and Executive Director at GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation on The Basis of Witch Hunts: An Analysis of Factors for Change; and Prof Miranda Forsyth, Australia National University on Preventive Measures to Harmful Practices Related to Accusations of Witchcraft and Ritual Attacks (HPAWR).
In the meeting we tried to find answers to the following question:
How rights based and gender social norms could be established to uphold practices in the society with positive impact on the identity and social cohesion without causing harm?
Regulations and interventions of practitioners in the area, to which extent this is possible? What actions and standards could apply? What are the promising practices in terms of legislation, policies, budget, data collection at all levels?
Which stakeholders have a role to play? What is the role of policy makers, national human rights institutions? What could we learn from human rights mechanisms, and regional mechanisms? What could State entities, all stakeholders do better?
Commonalities in their manifestations and impact on the lives of the most at-risk groups amongwomen and children
Determinants of HPAWR in all regions
State Policy to End Witch Hunts Practice
On 29 March 2022, two important presentations were made by Mr. Neelesh Singh on initiatives by Government of India under National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to end witch hunting and branding practices; and Ms. Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond on albinism, witchcraft and ritual attacks in African societies, followed by statements by Ms. Suhela Khan (UN Women) and Prof. Virginius Xaxa, an eminent scholar, Prof. Govind Kelkar moderated the session.
Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond, shared many misbeliefs about Albino people and how it leads to their accusation and persecution. She also showed how UN responded to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks through thematic reports and resolutions.
Neelesh Singh provided analysis on the Jharkhand state Garima project and its incorporation in National Rural Livelihood Mission across India. He shared different prevention techniques , protection and justice initiatives, rehabilitation, capacity building and monitoring strategies undertaken by NRLM.
Efforts to End Witch Hunts in Ghana and India
Taking movement to End Witch Hunts further, International Alliance to End Witch Hunts organised another webinar to mobilise our stakeholders. In this webinar our major focus was on Ghana and India. Govind Kelkar Moderated the event.
John Azumah gave presentation on Witch Accusations in Ghana: Beliefs and Camps in which he blow the lid off witch camps in Ghana. Witch camp priests (tendanas) openly admit that most accusations are fabrications out of jealousy and hatred. There are neither walls nor gates at the camps but there are gatekeepers. All priests claim that victims are free to return home whenever their families wanted them back, but there are caveats.
Neelesh Singh talked about Garima: A Project to make Jharkhand free from Witch Hunting and Branding Practices. After their deep-dive research they have some analyses to share with the Government: 1. To deviate the Witch Hunting Prevention Interventions from awareness generation to some serious interventions establishing accountability; 2. Invest in deeper research and bring on board several players; 3. Invest in women's empowerment and strengthening the Judicial system.
Witch Hunt Narratives
On 18th June 2021 International Alliance to End Witch Hunts organized webinar on Witch Hunt Narratives in which Samar Bosu Mullick Director of Institute of Community Forest Governance, Ranchi, India moderated the whole event and Sarika Sinha Director of ActionAid International was a discussant. There were two presentations by Dr. Helen Macdonald, Professor, University of Cape Town, South Africa on Witchcraft Accusations from Central India and Punam Toppo, Director ASHA NGO, Ranchi, India on Witch Killing: Crime With Social Content.
Dr. Helen Macdonald explored the nebulous concepts of social and legal justice for women accused as witches. She argued that the Chhattisgarh Witchcraft Atrocities Prevention Act 2005 (India) and the police enforcement of it does lead to a betterment of a woman’s situation and does offer more-or-less respite from violence. The Act has affected the appeal process, sentencing, legal cost, the proximity of the victim and perpetrator, and shortened the length of time in the justice system. Yet a decade after passing the law, claims to a lack of justice are still being heard. The law appears to be an unfinished business.
Ms. Punam Toppo emphasized that the continuation of the practice is rooted in patriarchal beliefs (reinforced by globalization processes) that often get manifested in the form of reasons like- opposition to women’s rights over property, suspicion of female sexuality etc. Further, lack of medical and educational resources in the marginalized tribal communities create additional vulnerabilities for the women, who are already placed in a disadvantageous social position due to their gender. Clearly, the Jharkhand Prevention of Witch Hunting Practices Act, 2001 remains inadequate in eliminating the issue due to various factors like meagre penalties, impunity of the police and above all the deeply entrenched beliefs among the communities itself that render the reporting of such cases unimportant.
Change in Norms to End Witch Hunts
On 21st March 2021 Alliance organised a webinar on ‘Change in Norms to End Witch Hunts’ was presented by GenDev CRI and the Alliance. Prof. Govind Kelkar was moderator of whole event with four presentation by Sarika Sinha on Witch Branding Amongst Indigenous and Rural Communities in India, Faustina Araba Boakye on Witch Hunts in Africa, Prof. Dev Nathan on Norms and Witch Hunts and Ms. Patricia Mukhim on Witch hunts in a matrilineal society of Meghalaya. In this event four questions were raised:
What kind of changes in norms are there, as manifested in older and newer practices?
Are such changes in norms reflected in the conflicts leading to witch hunts?
What kind of norms are needed in a society to end witch hunts?
How can the change in norms particularly related to witch hunts be brought about?
Ending Witch Hunts: Do Laws Help?
In this webinar members planned out how to end witch hunts through legal measures and awareness raising methods. Legal acts to end witch hunts are there and have some effects, but major barrier are the cultural acceptance of the witchcraft and witches.
The Alliance has taken the task of ending witch hunts in their respective regions with three-fold objectives:
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.
The webinar was chaired by Maia Green with three presentations by Helen Macdonald, Simeon Mesaki, Draghima Basumatary.