Ghanaian women accused of witchcraft live in exile

BBC News – Ghana witch camps: Widows’ lives in exile.

When misfortune hits a village, there is a tendency in some countries to suspect a “witch” of casting a spell. In Ghana, outspoken or eccentric women may also be accused of witchcraft – and forced to live out their days together in witch camps.

The camps are said to have come into existence more than 100 years ago, when village chiefs decided to establish isolated safe areas for the women. They are run by tindanas, leaders capable of cleansing an accused woman so that not only is the community protected from any witchcraft but the woman herself is safe from vigilantes.

“Women are expected to be submissive so once you start to be outspoken in your views or even successful in your trade, people assume you must be possessed.”

Eccentric behaviour may also be interpreted as evidence of spirit-possession.

The Ghanaian government sees the camps as a stain on the reputation of one of the most progressive democratic and economically vibrant nations in Africa, and said last year it would move quickly to disband them, possibly in 2012.

But sending the women back to their home villages now would be fraught with danger.

“We have to do a lot of work with their communities so that they are able to return without being lynched or subjected to reaccusation, for example if a cow jumps over a fence and knocks down something,” says Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, ActionAid’s country director in Ghana.

Tip: Fortean Times via Twitter

A psychiatrist noted in this piece that traditional communities have no real understanding of depression or dementia and that a majority of the women in the camps may have some sort of mental illness. I suppose the good news from this story is that the women have managed to survive their situation and have not been killed outright. Yet. But it’s a very sad state when these conditions continue to exist in what seems like a time warp of centuries of ignorance.

  3 comments for “Ghanaian women accused of witchcraft live in exile

  1. September 6, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    They are murdered sometimes…. I follow global “paranormal” news and find way too many stories about men, women, children, anyone born with a genetic anomaly such as albinism being not just ostracized but hunted and killed in hideous ways. Witchcraft accusations and subsequent acts of violence are not limited to Africa, though. It also happens in South America and parts of Asia – especially India. Here are a few links to recent stories:
    Elderly woman buried alive in Kenya: http://allafrica.com/stories/201208310423.html
    Family in New Delhi set aunt on fire: http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/five-given-life-term-for-killing-aunt/1055932.html
    Woman in Columbia beaten to death: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/09/03/Woman-accused-of-witchcraft-killed/UPI-69811346681088/?spt=hs&or=tn
    Deadly “… new wave of witch hunting” in Kenya: http://allafrica.com/stories/201208301258.html
    In India three accused witches (a couple and their 13 year old son) are missing, suspected dead: http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/three-suspected-of-witchcraft-missing/1052657.html
    Man kills his brother-in-law in India/Nepal border town: http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=+Brother+in+law+killed+on+charge+of+witchcraft&NewsID=345263
    10 year old boy in Nigeria accused of witchcraft set on fire (but survived!): http://www.informationnigeria.org/2012/08/boy-10-luckily-escapes-death-as-he-is-set-ablaze-over-witchcraft-allegation.html
    Plight of children with albinism in East Africa: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000064427&story_title=Project-gives-hope-to-children-with-albinism-
    There is now a law in India against witch hunts and subsequent violence, but enforcement is lax: http://womennewsnetwork.net/2012/03/15/india-laws-witchcraft-accusation/

    • September 6, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Thanks for the links! If you ever find more of these, send them to us. I’m going to repost one as a news story and give you credit.

      It truly is horrifying how frequent these stories are, and that’s not including what DOESN’T make it to news. There is likely more that does not get reported.

      • September 6, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        I find myself thinking of these dynamics echoed in the U.S., too (where I live). I don’t mean to pick on Africa and India – first world countries are certainly not immune to depersonalizing and demonizing an “other” group for power, profit, xenophobia, or religious zealotry. Look at how many conservative Christian groups and pundits speak about gay people, illegal immigrants, Muslims, etc.. We just happen to be better able to inhibit their ability to kill here.

        If anything I think it’s even more shameful considering people in the U.S. have access to education but they remain ignorant and fearful by choice. Aargh!

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