Witchcraft--A curse to women in Nepal
The first headline I read in a national daily goes like this: “Superstitious locals beat ‘witch’ to a pulp.” It grabs my attention and I read the news. I am bewildered. A woman named Anjira Mahato, 50, from Gauriganj village in Nepal was beaten up by locals on charges of “witchcraft”. She was also forced to eat human excreta, which made her pass out. Many women like Anjira are tortured everyday for crimes they have not committed. It makes me feel terrible. In a period like this, it is but sad to see what our women folks have to face.
Witches are supposed to have some kind of “magical powers” and they tend to give trouble to the local people. It is believed that magical power of the witches is responsible for the illness of the local people, who then become overwrought and start torturing the women accused physically and mentally. The accused women are many a times killed on charges of witchcraft. Most of the times women are ostracized from the society, assaulted, fed human excreta, hit with hot spoon in different parts of the body, forced to touch red and hot iron rod, forced to breathe in chili smoke, pierced in private organs, and insulted publicly. Additionally, their teeth are pulled out and gums cut sometimes.
Accusation for “witchcraft” is a form of Violence against Women and it is a big challenge for the state and the civil society to address the problem because of the deep-rooted blind faith in the minds of people.
“The violence perpetrated in the name of practicing “witchcraft” has adverse impacts not only on the lives of the concerned individuals but also on their family and society. The victims lose respect in the family and society. Some are not allowed to touch their grand children and others compelled to leave their homes and are reluctant to return to the village since the violence they suffered is still in their fresh memory. As the victims are ostracized from family and society, they become helpless and sometimes become the victim of torture which results in the damage of the survivor’s mental and physical health and social adaptation of different gravity and extensity, as well as with different prognosis for recovering,” states astitwa.com
Although a code of conduct against witchcraft has been formed and made public, there has been no decrease in the crime. Article No. 221 of Chapter 24 of Criminal Code, 2001 states “whosoever accuses any person as witch or banishes such person from the village or boycotts socially or commits any inhuman or insulting treatment, shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term up to one year or with a fine of up to ten thousand rupees or with both.” However, the culprits remain unpunished most of the times.
It is said that illiteracy is the root cause of such behavior, but I think it goes beyond just illiteracy. It is also because of superstitious, personal grudge against the victimized, and political interference. There are no clear legal provisions and government’s attitude is lax in this regard. There is also no professional commitment of the educated sections of the society which makes the problem even more severe. If the culprits are brought to court, at least a part of the problem could be solved.
All I hope is that our sisters from around the country, and the world, are protected from the clutches of this game called WITCHCRAFT.