Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WITCHCRAFT: Women Sandwiched between Supernatural and Patriarchy

As if there weren’t enough reasons to inflict pain on women to show male dominance, murder due to ‘witchcraft’ is emerging as a significant crime in a few states in India. Many women in these states are branded as ‘witches’ or as those ‘who practice the art of black magic’. Once branded, they are tortured and battered. In many cases, they are forced to eat their own excreta, gang-raped, and beaten to death. Despite the fact that these crimes are as heinous as they sound, it is shocking to learn that very little has been done by the government to curb this menace. It is frightening to see that such a crime is tolerated even in these modern times.

In India, this crime is predominant in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Orissa. Such geographic variation suggests that this crime is not contained to a particular region of the country. Together, these six states account for a staggering 82% of all witchcraft related murders in India in the last decade.The highest incident of this crime in the last decade has been in Andhra Pradesh with total murders amounting to 323. States in close steps with Andhra Pradesh are Jharkhand (316) and Orissa (290).

The prevalence of these murders was brought to light recently by the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. His murder has sparked debate about immediate need for astute legislation and effective enforcement. Witchcraft has its roots in ancient belief and superstition. Even with strong laws, it will not be easy to gain compliance and hence, corrective steps and measures such as education must be taken to ensure that innocent women do not become victims of these beliefs. For example, states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh have already enacted laws to restrict black magic but these states have been fairly unsuccessful in containing this menace. The change has to come at a community level. There is an urgent need for the government to launch a nationwide campaign against witch hunting. Workshops should be organized to educate people and make them realize that witch hunt is a serious crime.

Article written by Mohammed Wasil, a Research Analyst and Volunteer at Zerocrime

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