The United Nations Human Rights panel revealed in a report published this week that many women around the world still face witchcraft accusations. They are then subjected to execution, torture, and mutilation.
“The persecution and killing of individuals accused of practicing so-called ‘witchcraft’ – the vast majority of whom are women and children – is a significant phenomenon in many parts of the world,” stated Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.
A 2010 Gallup poll found over 95% of residents in Ivory Coast still believe in witchcraft. Unfortunately, research found children receive the majority of the accusations. For example, a woman tortured a five-year-old girl in October 2014:
The woman accused the girl of witchcraft and apparently tried exorcizing the witchcraft. She inflicted severe injuries on her using a machete. The woman put the girl’s hands and feet on the fire in an attempt to drive out the witchcraft spirit. A neighbor alerted the police who intervened and rescued the child. An online video of the girl at a court session shows graphic images of the bruises on her face, machete cuts on the head and palm and severe injuries which she sustain[ed] in the course of the ordeal.
“This is becoming an international problem – it is a form of persecution and violence that is spreading around the globe,” declared UNHCR’s Jeff Crisp.
A mob forced one family in Dachio, Ghana, to flee after they accused the people of witchcraft. Local media reported the mob, which includes the head of the town, is “seeking the blood of the alleged witches.” A court in Zambia convicted a 42-year-old woman “for accusing her fellow woman of killing her son through witchcraft.” The accusation took off with other members of the village turning against the woman.
Last week, Indian authorities in Assam arrested 16 people who beheaded an elderly woman for witchcraft. The village blamed Purni Orang, 63, for an illness. The residents stripped her naked and beheaded her.
“Purni was a witch and had cast evil spells on her enemies,” claimed Kiran Teronpi, a villager, adding, “There is no place for such sorcerers and so her killing is justified.”
Indian authorities said, “Nearly 90 people, mostly women, have been beheaded, burnt alive or stabbed to death after such accusations over the last six years.” In Lahanda, five people attacked Gura Munda, his wife, and their six children for witchcraft accusations. The people hacked the parents and four children to death with an ax.
“Some villagers had a meeting in which they accused Munda of practising witchcraft,” stated police officer Ajay Pratap Swain. “The children of a few villagers were not keeping well for some time and they suspected Munda to be behind it. People here are mostly illiterate and would believe anything they are told.”
USA Today notes residents in Osha “force-fed human excrement” to one woman accused of witchcraft. Hundreds in Assam “tied up an athlete in a fishing net and tortured her for being a witch” last October. Residents in Assam raped a mother and daughter in 2011 after they accused the two of witchcraft. Brothers is “an organization that promotes development in Assam” and fights to dispel these outrageous accusations.
“People who make these accusations know the victim is not a ‘witch,’ but they do so because of political rivalries, property disputes or personal feuds,” he explained. “The superstitious believe that the witch may have reduced crop production in the village, spread illnesses, or caused a death.”