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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.

Comments

JaniceW's picture

How tragic

Khushbu, I could not read this without feeling despair for Anjira. I find it interesting that witches are always seen to be women and I wonder if the woes of a village are even blamed upon the men. Superstition can have such a hold on people and unfortunately, unless the people and government take action, the practice of tormenting the innocent, labelled as a witch, will continue. From what I have read from you, Anjana and Sunita, there is still much work to be done to educate people in Nepal and to teach them that random acts are not the work of witches, women menstruating, etc..

Thank you for bringing this to our attention as only by being discussed can it be slowly eliminated.

Khushbu's picture

Hi Janice Yes, it is truly

Hi Janice

Yes, it is truly tragic. I really cant fathom what these women go through when they are charged with accusation. They and their families face social outcast and sometimes, they are not even allowed to touch people. And as you say, it is pretty interesting that "witches" are most of the times women. However, there are male witches called "Jhankris" but even more interestingly, they are the ones who drive away the witches from women's body. So, they are not blamed but looked upon for help. I find it rather ridiculous.

You are absolutely right in pointing out that Nepal is far behind in education. Only 40% of the population is educated according to government statistics. Illiteracy is rampant in rural areas which are the abode for such kind of inhuman crimes...

I really wish that Change comes in my country. Amen!

Love
Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

LauraB's picture

Curious

Khushbu,
Learning about the witch hunts present in Nepal currently, I wonder if these claims are on the rise? Throughout history around the world, women have been persecuted for difficulties and tragedies. Never penned on the men...shouldn't be penned on anyone, but something similar has happened 1000s of times for centuries in many, many countries.
Your report has got me thinking- thank you.

Khushbu's picture

you are right

Hi Laura

You are right. This is not only happening in Nepal, but worldwide. Well, i really cant point out if claims are on the rise, but i am sure of one thing--they havent reduced compared to the past. We read these news many a times happening in different parts of the country. The local police sometimes take the culprit under custody, but after the news leave the media, the culprits leave the jail--without being punished for the crime. And this is also one reason that people continue to torture women, because they know that ultimately they will come out unscathed.

The government seriously needs to do something about it. Even if existing laws are followed, a difference could be made.

Thank you

Regards
Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

Maria de Chirikof's picture

How sad!

I think it is this constant thing to get people to believe that the being in tune with Nature is somehow bad or evil. It is very frustrating to have such ideas still when we are supposed to be a more enlightened age.

Just know they are trying to get your people to lose touch with Nature so the land can be as exploited as the people. Support the so-called "witches" since they are merely woman who care about the environment and that is not a bad or scary thing when thought of that way.

And it is true that it is always woman who are blamed for the bad things happening but that is only because so many woman are taught from birth to not think of themselves as real people. It is what we need to change back to a more balanced view of the world.

I know my beliefs would have me called a practitioner of 'witchcraft' and that is disturbing to realize it could happen here as well if we do not support those in other countries!

Maria

Khushbu's picture

Thank you

Hi Maria

Your comment really kept me thinking. I have never come to understand what "witchcraft" is all about. If it is about coming close with your nature, what harm does it have on people. In Nepal, women are accused of witchcraft when someone in the village die all of a sudden, when an epidemic breaks out, when someone falls sick. They blame the women on the charges of making such things happen.

In case of Anjira, she was just watching a local women "who was in a trance". She was dragged from there, beaten up in public and humiliated. Imagine she is 50 years old. I can't believe people can be that barbaric.

As you say, lets hope for a more balanced world.

Love
Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

JaniceW's picture

Lynching of "Witches" in Kenya

NOTE: Some of the content in the link may be disturbing to read
BBC News reporter, Odhiambo Joseph, talks about witnessing the lynching of "witches" in Kenya:

"Villagers, many straight from their farms, and armed with machetes, sticks and axes, are shouting and crowding round in a big group in Kenya's fertile Kisii district.

I can't see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air. More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks.

I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya - the lynching of people accused of being witches."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8119201.stm

Khushbu's picture

That is scary

Hi Janice

This news is so depressing. This practice is everywhere, and burning people alive is a grave form...i cant believe how can people do this. In India, widows are burnt alive, along with their dead husbands when they are cremated. Although this practice has been banned, widows still get burnt in some parts, where people are strongly rooted to their tradition. But burning people alive on the pretext that they are witches is horrific...This is disturbing.

When will the people learn to stop believing in all these nonsense? They are humans and not objects. We need to do something to bring an end to this....

Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

astitwa's picture

astitwa needs you

hey there,
we are planning to relaunch astitwa.com and during reserarch i found your article quotes some refrence from astitwa.com . I found it very intreasting that astitwa.com has reached so far in past. I am planning to relaunch astitwa.com from 8th March 2010. with same sprite which it was working before. and searching some team member to volunteer for it.

I will be glad to get your feedback and comment how I can make this web better and what input you can give me to make this more effective women magzin with difference.

Regards

Rajiv Karna
Astitwa Team Member
www.astitwa.com

Khushbu's picture

Great to know

Hi there

Its so great to know that you are launching astitwa once again. I was wondering what happened to the webpage... please e-mail me with details and let me know how can i help.

Thank you

Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

astitwa's picture

replying after almost 2 year

hey...
Hope you doing well. and Happy New Year 2012.

we lost again..but this time we are coming online for good!
please let me know your email address or you can send me email to info@astitwa.com .

Regards

Rajiv Karna
Astitwa Team Member
www.astitwa.com

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