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Condemn witch-hunts in SA!

19 March 2012, 11:02

Witch-hunts have become epidemic throughout Africa. Although witch-hunts have historically been viewed as gender specific, with a large percentage of victims still identified as elderly and solitary women, recent reports show that victims of witch-hunts include both women and men of all ages.

Published media reports highlight tragic human rights abuses arising as a result of witchcraft accusations. The true extent of witch-hunts in Africa and in South Africa especially however, has yet to be determined. Many incidences of witch-hunts go unreported and very few governments, including this government, actually keep detailed statistics of such incidents.

Witch-hunts are largely perpetrated by individuals, most often family members, and groups of neighbors who believe that misfortune is always enabled through the agency of 'a witch'.

The victims of such accusations do not identify themselves as Witches. Indeed, the victims have the right to be presumed innocent of the accusations made against them simply because they have not been given the benefit of a legal inquiry to determine guilt.

Accusations of witchcraft are most often motivated through localized forms of religious extremism by practitioners of traditional African religions who believe that witchcraft is always the cause of misfortune, traditional healers (including diviners, herbalists, 'witch-doctors') who use various forms of divination to point out suspected witches, and charismatic revivalist Christian religious leaders (pastors and prophets) who use their prejudicial notions of witchcraft as a manifest form of satanic evil to encourage their followers to find (accuse) and convert suspected witches.

The words 'witch' and 'witchcraft' are used predominantly as an accusation throughout Africa, either to describe a number of clearly defined traditional religious practices that do not self-define as witchcraft, as well as a number of variable urban legends perpetuated by religious leaders and traditional healers to identify women, children and men who are not actual Witches.
In rare instances where alleged confessions of being a witch or practicing witchcraft are made by the accused, reported testimony is either irrational or coerced through torture or threat.

The 'witchcraft' most often referred to through accusation, allegation and harmful superstition, exists only in the minds of those who believe that witchcraft is the embodiment of evil and that witches are responsible for misfortune, disease, accident, natural disaster and death.

The '30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts' campaign was launched in March 2008 by the South African Pagan Rights Alliance SAPRA, under the banner of 'Touchstone Advocacy', in response to ongoing accusations of witchcraft and brutal witch-hunts in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent. In March 2011 the South African 'Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities' publicly announced its support for this annual campaign.

Since 2008 the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has repeatedly appealed to all Commissions for Human Rights internationally to encourage all governments to:a. halt the persecution of suspected or accused witches,b. uphold and strengthen a culture of human rights for all equally,c. respond appropriately and humanely to incidences of accusations of witchcraft,d. make the eradication of violence against suspected witches an international priority,e. train local police to manage witchcraft accusations and violent witch-hunts in a way that affirms the dignity and humanity of those accused of practising witchcraft,f. create victim support units to facilitate reintegration and conciliation of those accused,g. adopt comprehensive public education and awareness programmes aimed at eradicating the real causes of witchcraft accusations, andh. reform legislation that currently seeks to suppress witchcraft or criminalize accused witches.

During the '30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts' campaign, from 29 March to 27 April, we wish to remind South Africans that making an accusation of witchcraft remains illegal in this country and we appeal to everyone, irrespective of where they are in the world, to publicly condemn witch-hunts wherever they may occur.

There can be no human culture without human rights for all, including the victims of witch-hunts. 
For more information please visit the '30 days' campaign page - www.paganrightsalliance.org/30_days.html 
30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts' BLOGGING CAMPAIGN ?

If you're a blogger, irrespective of which country you're in, please consider blogging about the '30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts' campaign and about ongoing witch-hunts globally? Help us focus the world's attention this year and make a difference!

Post a link to your blog entry on this campaign and witch-hunts to info@paganrightsalliance.org and we will share your blog link with other bloggers covering the same subject around the globe.

For more information please visit the '30 days' campaign page - www.paganrightsalliance.org/30_days.html

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