By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter – Africa
ACCRA, Ghana – Last week, Ghanaian leaders and civil society groups gathered at the Towards Banning “Witches” Camps conference to develop a plan to abolish the six witch camps in the Northern Region. Women and children reside in these witch camps after their communities banished them based on witchcraft accusations. Deputy Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs Hajia Hawawu Boya Gariba plans to develop legislation to close witch camps, reintegrate women into their communities, and outlaw accusing women of being a witch.
However, witchcraft is not limited to the Northern Region. Last year, five adults burned a 72-year old woman to death in Tema, a suburb of Ghana’s national capital Accra, because they believed she was a witch. Another woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease was tortured in Accra under witchcraft accusations after she got lost in the city.
Accusing a woman of witchcraft violates Section 5 of Ghana’s 1992 constitution, which ensures human rights and makes cultural practice that dehumanizes or injures the physical or mental health of a person illegal. The constitution also states that a person is not guilty of a crime until a court of competent jurisdiction proves guilt.
A community member accuses the women of witchcraft when a sudden death, misfortune, or calamity occurs in the community, or based on the woman’s behavior resulting from old age, menopause, or psychological disorders. A woman can be stoned, lynched, tortured, or banished from her community when she is accused. After she is accused, the woman receives a trial to determine if she is a witch. The trial consists of cutting the head off a chicken. If the chicken lands face down or on its side, the woman is guilty. If it falls on its back, the woman is innocent.
Once the trial is complete, the woman returns to her home or builds a new home at a “witch” camp. The woman settles into a thatched mud hut with her possessions and children until she can reintegrate into her community, if ever.
Yaba Badoe directed and co-produced the film Witches of Gambaga. This film depicts the stories of the women in the Gambaga Outcast Home in the Northern Region of Ghana.
Regarding the witchcraft accusations in Ghana, Ms. Gariba said, “The labeling of some of our kinsmen and women as witches and wizards and banishing them into camps where they live in inhuman and deplorable conditions is a violation of their fundamental human rights.”
For further information, please see:
Yaba Badoe – Witches of Gambaga –21 Sept 2011
GBC News – Abolish Witch Camps – 21 Sept 2011
Christian Science Monitor – Ghana aims to abolish witches’ camps – 15 Sept 2011
Ghanaian Chronicle – My Grandma is Not a Witch – 12 Sept 2011