Witchcraft is mostly understood to check with a supernatural energy possessed by a person. In Ghana, notably within the northern components of the nation, the topic continues to spark fierce debates.
In areas corresponding to Northern, Savanna and North East, folks accused of witchcraft are banished from their communities. In response, different communities have offered refuge for displaced folks. These locations of refuge have themselves sparked controversy. Critics contend that they’ve change into centres of “abuse” and have known as for his or her closure.
I’m a lecturer in anthropology and growth research. I got down to perceive the controversy round what are sometimes known as “witch camps” and whether or not they need to be abolished. I carried out a 12 months lengthy ethnographic examine within the Gnani-Tindang group in northern Ghana. Gnani-Tindang gives refuge for folks accused of witchcraft who’ve been banished from their communities.
I conclude from my findings
that authorities and NGOs aren’t proving able to managing the issue, as a result of they’re beginning on the fallacious place. The main target is on witchcraft accusations, by which era folks have already been stripped of their “social citizenship” and been pressured to relocate.
Participating with the experiences of individuals accused of witchcraft and their communities reveals that intervening at an earlier level issues extra.
Victims of witchcraft accusations face alienation or exclusion from their communities. Exclusions could be social, bodily, financial or psychological.
Some villages in northern Ghana have change into often called locations that present refuge to folks banished from their communities. These villages weren’t created for this goal. Relatively, they’re already current communities which have chosen to supply such refuge.
Banishment occurs when somebody accused of witchcraft is not welcomed of their group. They’re requested to go away and by no means return. Not heeding such recommendation comes with penalties together with violence, abuse, social exclusion and homicide.
Typically folks relocate to a village that’s providing them security after they’ve been pressured to go away their houses following direct threats. In some situations folks transfer once they hear rumours that they threat being accused of witchcraft.
What individuals who had been banished advised me
The aim of my analysis inquiry was to achieve insights into how people accused of witchcraft talk about themselves and their circumstances.
The experiences of these accused different. As one advised me:
They lastly threatened that they had been going to do their juju, and if I had any information concerning the baby’s illness, I used to be going to die inside 4 days. I advised them they need to go forward; I used to be keen to die if I had been the one liable for the kid’s illness. After the ritual, I didn’t die. Nonetheless, they mentioned I may not stick with them locally.
One other gave this account:
After the loss of life of my husband, the family accused me of witchcraft. My in-laws mentioned I killed my husband, however I don’t know something about it. He fell sick and died afterwards. How can I kill my husband? I used to be fortunate I wasn’t killed. There have been plenty of chaos, and among the folks advised that I needs to be killed. Others disagreed and advised that I needs to be dropped at Gnani-Tindang … It’s my husband’s individuals who introduced me right here.
We additionally noticed that aged folks with little power to fend for themselves had been usually focused. One individual, who was 80 years outdated, mentioned:
Have a look at me; I’m outdated and weak now. I can’t do a lot for myself. However I have to fetch water, firewood and beg for meals to eat. It’s lonely right here.
Ghana’s parliament has not too long ago handed an anti-witchcraft invoice. It seeks to criminalise the apply of declaring, accusing, naming, or labelling folks as witches. Making such an accusation would result in a jail sentence.
However, for my part, the invoice alone isn’t the answer. It is because declaring sure behaviour unlawful – and subsequently punishable in a court docket of regulation – doesn’t tackle the difficulty of prejudice and discrimination which frequently pertains to folks’s age, gender and financial standing. In different phrases, the regulation gained’t cope with the tensions that emerge when tradition intersects with the truth of people that change into victims of witchcraft accusations.
Extra steps must be taken.
Firstly, consideration must be given to the underlying social points driving accusations of witchcraft. For instance, excessive inequalities amongst women and men, young and old, wealthy and poor. Creating avenues that present a stability in society will impact witchcraft accusation and banishment.
Early gender-tailored schooling must be launched by the federal government and growth actors on the worth of each girls and boys. That is notably vital within the patriarchal societies of northern Ghana. This might assist tackle gender inequalities that result in witchcraft accusations. Witchcraft accusation is gendered: extra ladies than males are accused, confronted and banished.
There’s a want to have interaction broadly with the Ghanaian society concerning the risks of witchcraft accusation and to place in mechanisms to guard those that are abused and violated because of such accusations.
Lastly, there’s a must take heed to the voices and experiences of those that are victims of witchcraft accusations. It will make sure that interventions aren’t indifferent from their actuality.