The Superstition that Maims the Vulnerable: Establishing the Magnitude of Witchcraft-Driven Mistreatment of Children and Older Women in Ghana

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Abstract

Witchcraft-triggered violence is widespread in contemporary African societies. This study establishes the magnitude and identifies the principal features, motivations and socio-cultural contexts of witchcraft-driven mistreatment of children and older women in Ghana. It achieves this aim by embarking on an in-depth analysis of cases of witchcraft-related abuse publicised in three renowned local Ghanaian media outlets between 2014 and 2020 and comparing the results with the findings of extant empirical studies. The data support the view that witchcraft-fuelled abuse is endemic in Ghana, and the worst victims are children and older women of low socio-economic background. It demonstrates that the commonest forms of mistreatment and violence resulting from belief in witchcraft are murder and torture (perpetrated with various weapons/tools), forcible confinement and enslavement, neglect and child labour. The most dominant motivations for such violations are the suspicion that the alleged witches are responsible for family or community members’ death or illness and the supposed victims’ economic or financial predicament. The study stresses the need to criminalise witchcraft accusations and bring pastors and traditional spiritualists under closer scrutiny since many witchcraft allegations and the ensuing persecutions are largely encouraged by their dubious activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-290
Number of pages38
JournalInternational Annals of Criminology
Volume58
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • witchcraft beliefs
  • witchcraft-driven mistreatment
  • accusations
  • witches' camps
  • Ghana

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