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Silence please ! Witch hunt in progress

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Violence against women:

Violence against women has been called as "the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world." This persistent and universal problem occurs in every culture and community of the world and according to the statistics, at least one in every three women has been beaten,coerced into sex,or otherwise abused in her lifetime- most often by someone she knows, including member of her own family.
Violence against women is often known as 'gender based violence' because it partly stems from the unequal /inferior status enjoyed by women in society, over the years. Male dominated societies and institutions have long been inflicting both physical and psychological harm on a woman because of her gender.
According to Beijing Declaration and Platform for action -"violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms." Crimes are many, but the victim remains the same-silent and suffering women.

Witch hunt in India:

In my country, cases of belittling a woman's honor and dignity are many,sometimes so disturbing and hurtful, that it puts the entire human race to shame.But such stories need to be told. Such stories need to be heard.

Among such innumerable cases, one heinous crime which needs to be highlighted more is the hunting and branding of women as witches and torturing them in the name of traditional practices.

Sarla Brahma,52, Bifula Narzary,49,Purni Basumatary,57, were all victims of horrendous medieval superstitions called Witch Hunting. A couple of months ago, these women were hacked to death by their own fellow villagers in Assam's Kokrajhar district. The reason? They were all suspected of practising witchcraft.These are not the isolated cases, as states such as Jharkhand,Haryana,Chhattisgarh,Orissa,West Bengal,Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan,Andhra Pradesh,Gujarat,Maharashtra and Bihar have all recorded a rise in cases of witchcraft and witch hunting.

As an outsider, many would find it difficult to believe that in such day and age, witchcraft still exists, but the fact remains that in India, it not only exists, but is also practiced by many, who still believe it to be a part of their tradition.

In the case of Budhaniya Majhi,a simple village girl of Jharkhand, the malaise of witch hunting gets particularly highlighted. On being branded as a "Dayan" ( witch in Hindi ) by the villagers,she was dragged naked the entire night by two men, suffering beatings and lashings throughout, and then made to stand in front of her "village headman", to explain her position. When the headman, who acted as the judge,asked the men of any proof whether Budhaniya was a witch, one of the them answered that his father had fallen ill and died shortly after consuming food Majhi had prepared for him.

He further added that when his father died,a black cat had crossed the threshold of his house.Hence it became clear to him that it was black magic alone that killed his father and Budhaniya was the one who perpetrated this act. Without hearing Majhi's side of the story, the entire village started chanting the name"dayan" and insulted her furthermore.She was told to vacate her house, her belongings and few animals that she had left. She was ordered never to return to the village and was forced to give up her land and house as compensation to the man whose father had died. She was left lifeless.

Such incidents of extreme humiliation and torture are many, where in majority of the cases, the accused woman is either forced to abandon her home and family, or is driven to commit suicide.Most of the cases are not documented because it is difficult for the illiterate woman to travel from far, isolated regions to file police reports and the complaints fall on deaf ears.

According to a study by the Free Legal Aid Committee, in Jharkhand,less than 2% of those accused of witch hunting are actually convicted. A 2010 estimate places the number of women killed as witches in India at between 150-200 per year, or a total of 2,500 in the period of 1995 to 2009 with numbers rising in the recent years.

The Cause and what the Law says:

In India, labelling a woman as a witch is a common ploy to grab land,settle scores, avenge personal rivalry, curb social and economic empowerment or even to punish her for turning down sexual advances.Many a times, due to lack of knowledge, the tribal men tend to belief that the cause of rampant diseases, widespread in the village, is the work of a witch. Accordingly, innocent women are branded and condemned with brutal treatments meted out to them. Some are gang raped, paraded naked, while others are forcibly made to drink powerful poisonous concoctions.Urine and human excreta is used for smearing their already bloodied faces and she is left helpless, with no family or home.

Fortunately, now there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.People are slowly waking up to the ill effects of such dastardly acts and coming together to help innocent victims.

In tea plantations of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, where cases of witch hunting are reportedly high,a small group of women have come together through a government loan programme, and started life afresh.Through the programme, each woman has been issued a low interest,collateral free "microcredit" loan of about Rupees 750 ($18) to start her own business.These women have come together to help each other out in basket weaving, tailoring and selling chicken eggs thus empowering themselves economically and also forcing the men to look beyond the aspect of witch hunting and killing.

Other states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have also laid down strict regulations to control such practices but the absence of any National Law in the country makes the efforts futile. Police and social activists have time and again pressed for a separate and stricter law, but the authorities have pushed the matter under the carpet stating it is a states' responsibility. The ensuing battle of Central v/s State continues, with many victims getting tortured and beaten every day.

Rehabilitation and What More Can Be Done:

As the laws fail to make a greater impact, rehabilitation of the victim seems another possibility of ensuring that their life is not gone wasted. Similar to Jalpaiguri, many other activists and social groups have come forward to ensure that these women are provided with an economic outlet for their empowerment.Along with monetary aid, psychological help is also provided to help battle the stigma and insult faced by them.

Along with rehabilitation,education and awareness at every Gram Panchayat level, especially in those villages where witch hunting is particularly high, should be carried out by NGOs and various other government institutions. A separate national law should be implemented wherein not only the main accused, but also the" tantric" ( medicinal man of the village) along with others who provoked it, should be booked under the Indian Penal Code.

Media campaigns and increased public awareness is a must.Practices which perpetuate violence against women should be discouraged at all levels. Schools, communities, societies should highlight the evils and vigils can be held to stop/discourage the people who attempt it.

If a woman is alone, it doesn't mean that she is weak or others can take advantage of this. When a woman says no, it means a NO. By calling a woman "witch", people are insulting womanhood, insulting her honor, her dignity, and her place in the society. Let us hope the concerned authorities are listening. Let us hope they act fast.

Let humanity be the first step, then the journey would be easier, whether we are man or woman.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

Huma's picture

I am in shock

I did not know practices such as "witch hunting" are still practiced in parts of the world! That is absolutely barbaric, medieval thinking that has no place in today's society! I'm glad you informed us of this attrocity and I'm glad that there are some steps being taken towards rehabilitation and remediation.
Human beings cannot and should not be treated differently based on their genders!
Keep writing,
Huma

Mukut's picture

Sad but true

Dear Huma,

It is very unfortunate that such evil practices still exist. Women are tortured in different ways in the name of tradition, culture and other sinister reasons.

A lot still needs to be done in this regard. More stories need to be highlighted in media,and the government should wake up from its slumber and take note of the situation.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Very Sad

Dear Mukut,

If wishes were horses, beggars will definitely ride. In this matter of witch hunting, I cannot help but wish it does not exist because it reeks of prejudice against women. I cannot agree with you any less that the practice is being perpetuated by lazy bigots.

The stories of all the women mentioned in your piece is disheartening and I hope that the information travels like wild fire; so that more women would not continue to fall victims of such barbaric and dastardly acts.

Kudos to you for bringing the story to bare. I certainly hope and pray that your action brings about an urgent intervention.

Best wishes,

Olanike

Mukut's picture

Thank You

Thank you Olanike, indeed it is sad that such practices are still prevalent in my country. Together we have to pledge for an action and immediate steps must be taken to eradicate this malaise from our society.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Dear Mukut,

This is a very moving story. I really empathize with the women who go through such inhuman acts, especially the young girl, Majhi who suffered so much pain and lost everything as a result of being branded a witch. It is really sad that all an accuser has to do is shout 'witch' and a woman is condemned and punished severely without anyone caring to hear her side of the story! it is a grave injustice!
I am encouraged to hear that there are people helping victims of witch hunts rebuild their lives. We commend these organizations who lend victims money to rebuild their lives and anyone else willing to help. We commend the women victims for their courage to face their reality and start over, even with so many odds stack up against them. They have demonstrated the sheer strength of a woman!
To you i say thank you! For using this powerful forum to speak out against such evil. I am convinced the surest way to defeat evil is to bring it to light and expose evil to the ridicule it deserves so that all people of good will may shun evil.
Thank you!

Keep talking until change happens.

All the best!

Wanja

EWG

Mukut's picture

thank you

Thank yoy so much Wanja,
We have to stand strong and fight until justice is reached. Your encouraging comments are welcomed.Thank you so much for reading my post and commenting.
Let us carry the work together,stronger.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Rakiba's picture

Why women?

Dear Mukut,
The incident that you have written is very something completely inhumane. Whatever happens,why always women are subjected to this type of abusement? Strong Protest and laws should be implemented against these practices. Afterall, every gender has an equal right to live...

Mukut's picture

Dear Rakiba

Yes Rakiba,you are absolutely right when it comes to violence against women.Time and again we have been subjected to abuse and harassment at the hands of patriarchal society.

Let us hope that strict action is taken against such culprits soon. Stringent laws be implemented so that no person dares to think of commiting such a crime.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

Love,

Mukut Ray

jap21's picture

Hi Mukut

For some reason this kind of thing is almost never heard of in the rest of the world. Your voice must be always strong as you are probably the only voice to be heard about this matter.

Outrageous, horrifying. Nothing can be used to diminish the responsibility of the Indian government. This is UNACCEPTABLE for humanity, a crime against life, of the worst kind.

Let us pray that more and more brave women denounce this and change takes effect.

Thank you so much for being the very first.

Love,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Mukut's picture

Dear Jackie

Dear Jackie,

Thank you so much for your insightful and thoughtful words. True, such atrocity is a crime towards humanity. The government plans to take big steps, but fails every time to bring in a separate law.

Crime towards women, is crime towards humanity.

Thank you so much for reading it.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Dear Mukut,
In telling these stories, you have brought something to awareness that so many of us had no idea was occurring in our day and time. Thank you for your writing. You are creating huge change.
I so appreciate your voice, Mukut!!! You tell the stories that MUST be told, hard as it may be, and you give hope and suggestion for what can be done.
Keep going!
Much love to you,
Carrie

Mukut's picture

Thank you

Thank you so much dear friend for stopping by and commenting.

I really appreciate your encouraging words.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

cece's picture

Thank You

Thank you so much for sharing! I had never heard of this before and it has definitely opened my eyes to what is going on in India. You are a strong person for sharing your story and I couldn't have known about this otherwise. Keep doing sharing what you are sharing...everyday 1 more person will be come aware.

Love

Cece

We are blessed to have many Sisters!

Cece

Mukut's picture

Dear Cece

Cece,

Thank you so much Cece for reading it and commenting. It is through WP, that i can share such horrific stories about my country, which otherwise lie, silent, buried somewhere.

Thank you for appreciating my article.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

CoachMarcie's picture

Great job Mukut

I have been involved in WP for several years and know when I read something so special. Your voice was heard loud and clear. I love all the detail although it is so sad to hear these horrible stories. I learned a lot from your assignment and can't wait to read more. I am a fan for sure! Great Job! Love, Coach Marcie

Best,
Marcie

Mukut's picture

Thank you Marcie

Thank you so much for your generous and encouraging words. Means a lot.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

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