Academic Papers: Witchdoctors

Religion, Democracy and Civil Society: The case of ‘witches’ in Ghana

This presentation highlights the plight of women accused of witchcraft and proposes measures which can be taken to safeguard their fundamental human rights. Read here.

Nepal: A study of cultural violence against women with reference to nepal and india

The research paper analyzes the phenomena of witch-hunting in Nepal and India within the broader context of violence against women. Considering the case studies, in Nepal, it is found most of the incidents have occurred in the Terai region and the victims of witchcraft allegations have been mostly women from the marginalized, poor and ethnic communities. In India, women from tribal communities and widows have been targeted. It is generally seen that causes behind this specific type of violence are superstition and belief in witchcraft reinforced by the presence of people like shamans and witch-doctors and their influence on illiterate (and often
fatalistic) communities. This reseach also explores other underlying causes of witch hunting in these countries. See full article here. 

Cultural Denial: What South Africa’s Treatment of Witchcraft says for the Future of its Customary Law

The following article examines the treatment of witchcraft under customary law and common law, both historically and under the new legal order, and analyses the implications this comparison reveals. See full article here

Poverty and Witch killing

Using rainfall variation, this study investigates the impact that income shocks have in causing violent crime, in particular; attacks on women branded as witches, to assess and conclude that economic conditions are a driving force behind witch murders. Full article here

Witchcraft: A human rights conflict between customary/traditional laws and the legal protection of women in contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa

This following article provides an insight into the concept of witchcraft and its legal implications for women, particularly older women in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. Part I explores the foundation for the belief in witchcraft and witchcraft’s place in and effect on the social ordering within communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Part II examines the clash of customary/traditional laws against state legal systems. Part III analyses various international treaties, principles and norms and explores international law and human rights standards that could arguably protect this victimised class of women. The article concludes by suggesting potential methods to handle situations involving witchcraft accusations. See the full article here

Witchcraft belief and accusations against children in Sub-Saharan Africa

Belief in witchcraft is widespread across the African continent. Recently, attention has been drawn to the relatively new phenomenon of witchcraft accusations against children, leading to punishment that severely violates their human rights. Analysing the recommendations made by NGOs and United Nations organs regarding this issue, the author argues that they neglect a normative conflict between cultural belief and human rights as well as lacks philosophical depth. The following article presents, clarifies and discusses the normative problem surrounding the phenomenon of witchcraft belief and accusations against children from a theoretical perspective, in order to facilitate an in-depth understanding of the issue in a wider context of moral values as well as improve the possibilities for successful prevention strategies. Universalism and cultural relativism is presented and discussed, as well as the indeterminacy of human rights. Ultimately, the conclusion states the choice between treating a child as an individual or as a part of the community an important normative consideration, however the main normative problem is found within universalism in the form of conflicting human rights. See the full article:  witchcraft belief and accusations against children in sub-saharan africa

Witch-hunts in modern Africa and early modern Europe: A comparison

Belief in witchcraft is found across the world and in some societies alleged witches are persecuted and killed. This article explores the rise of false accusations of witchcraft and the resultant killings in South Africa in the last three decades; as many as 20 000 may have died between 2004 and 2008. The article considers these lynching’s in the light of killings associated with witch-hunts in Europe (1450–1750) focusing on the witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In many cases, people’s credulity is abused by those who accuse others of practising witchcraft. The accusers often stand to gain in some way and exploit the vulnerability of those they accuse. This article explores witch hunts as a reaction to disaster as related to gender bias and relational problems. It shows that such persecution is difficult to control with social institutions; it is a self propagating discourse with potentially tragic results for the victims. See the full article here: witchhunts in modern africa and early modern europe

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