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Expedite the passing of Bill to criminalise witch-hunting - CHRAJ

1.21475836.jpeg Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of CHRAJ

Sat, 14 May 2022 Source: GNA

Mr Joseph Whittal, Commissioner, Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has called on Parliament to expedite the passing Private Member’s Bill to criminalise people who accuse women of witchcraft.

He said the Bill would aid the prosecution those who were associated with and sponsored the lynching of those women to deter others from the practice.

Mr Whittal told the Ghana News Agency that the issues of allegations and lynching of women suspected to be witches, kept occurring.

However, he expressed worry about the way it was handled, saying: “The rights of the women(victims) are infringed upon,’’ hence, the need to tackle it efficiently.

The Private Members’ Bill sponsored by three Members of Parliament is in furtherance of an earlier effort by the 7th Parliament to introduce this law, pursuant to a petition by the Sanneh Institute dated August 4, 2021.

It seeks to criminalise the declaration, accusation, naming or labeling of another person as a witch; to prohibit a person from employing or soliciting anyone to accuse, name, label, indicate, or declare another person as a witch and provide for related matters.

On 23 July 2020, a 90-year-old woman was beaten to death in broad daylight at Kafaba, near Salaga, and a 65-year-old woman also escaped lynching after some angry youth of Nakpali in the Zabzugu district of the Northern Region accused her of witchcraft, however, her house and about 10,000 tubers of yam were reportedly burnt.

A study revealed that 52.7 per cent of women accused of witchcraft in Northern and North East regions of Ghana suffer from depression with 66.5 per cent being widows.

It also showed that 8.6 per cent of them live extremely low-quality life whilst only 2.5 percent live moderately low quality of life and none has relatively high quality of life.

The Commissioner said it was not enough to close the witch camps, and underscored the need for a legislation to serve as deterrence and curb the lynching of accused women.

He said CHRAJ and a Canadian NGO would collaborate to build the capacity of local equality champions in Yendi and Nalerigu from May 16 to 17 to ensure the protection of the rights of people.

“It is not about sitting in Accra and saying, let’s close down the camps, how have you conscientised the people on what to do with people who are suspected to be witches,” he said.

He appealed to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to support the Bill for it to be passed as fast as possible.

‘‘I am not happy it is a Private Member’s Bill. The state should have done that with the Gender Ministry being the sponsor since it is about social protection and women,’’ he added.

CHRAJ has a broad mandate to protect universal human rights and freedoms, especially those vested in the 1992 Constitution, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

Its services are free, empowering, user-friendly and accessible to all.

Source: GNA