New Ground-Breaking UN Resolution Condemning Witchcraft Violence & Abuse

During the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN released a resolution that calls for the “Elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks.” The session, which lasted from June 21 to July 13, 2021, listed on its agenda the third item, which tackles the protection and promotion of all human rights, including social and cultural rights.

The UN has been tackling human rights issues across the globe, and specifically in most African nations. Their policies included investigations in human rights violations rooted in cultural and traditional practices deemed acceptable in the countries where they originated. This includes practices such as witchcraft. However, the UN did not expressly create a resolution to address witchcraft and its variations across different African cultures.

In the resolution, the UN asks states to take actions against witchcraft, related violent attacks, and the resulting violation of human rights. The UN also calls for accountability and to put to justice the individuals and any organizations that perpetuate human rights violations, specifically those that are done to practice witchcraft.

The Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), in a press release, celebrated the “one of a kind” resolution. The WHRIN, looking back on the rigorous and diligent campaigns and advocacy by a coalition of NGOs, lawyers, and survivors, calls the resolution ground-breaking. 

Gary Foxcroft, director of WHRIN, and Dr. Charlotte Baker from the University of Lancaster stated that at least 20,000 victims of human rights abuse perpetrated in the name of witchcraft over the last decade. The victims are primarily women, children, and older people with specific disabilities such as epilepsy and dementia. Another group of very susceptible victims are people with Albinism, where attacks that mutilate them for their body parts, or worse, are common.

Violence and human rights violations related to witchcraft can occur globally. Aside from Africa, high cases are also observed in India. In 2016, 102 people were murdered for their body parts; another 35 individuals were believed to be victims of human sacrifices.

In their press release, the WHRIN call witchcraft a result of “entrenched ignorance about causes of sickness and death, religious profiteering.”

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