Continue to criminalise witchcraft accusations – Thindwa

Executive director of the Association of Secular Humanism (ASH) George  Thindwa says he has formed a working group to campaign against moves by some sections of the society to have witchcraft recognised by the law.

Currently, law from the British colonial era makes it illegal to accuse anyone of being a witch or to claim that one practices witchcraft.

However, belief in witches in Malawi is both widespread and impassioned.

Thindwa said his group wants the country to continue “not to recognise witchcraft despite some quarter’s desire that our law should be reviewed to recognise witchcraft.”

Thindwa: Witchcraft does not exist

ASH says “considers any moves calling for recognition of witchcraft as retrogressive and unconstitutional and not in line with modern and democratic principles.”

In a media statement, made available to Nyasa Times,  Thindwa said the group will work with other stakeholder to ensure that  will therefore ensure that it works with other stakeholders so that the new law is in line with international standards, constitutional and protects Malawians from harm and violence committed in the name of witchcraft.

“ Witchcraft is a belief. While Malawians have the right to believe in it, but they have no right to harm others in the name of witchcraft,” said Thindwa, advancing ASH’s position .

“ There is no evidence that witches exist. Accusations grounded on jealousies, crookedness and trickery remain the greatest manifestation of the belief. Recognising witchcraft will lead to legal quagmire.”

Thindwa said ASH deplore the practice of pastors or prophets, traditional healers and some chiefs that propagate that witchcraft is real; resulting into increased accusations of children as witches and violence towards women and the elderly.

“The alleged claims that children are taught witchcraft are just machinations of people who don`t wish our elderly and women well. It is also a tool used to settle personal vendettas,” Thindwa said.

He added: “It’s not true that the witchcraft law is not keeping with Malawians believing in witchcraft. Europeans who wrote our law sentenced to death about 50,000 witches from 1450 to 1700. The law was therefore written to ensure that the same mistake wasn’t repeated in Malawi, the way Europeans did.

ASH said in the statement that criminalization of witchcraft will exacerbate accusations and harm to innocent people.

Malawi Law Commission is now reviewing the law, which it said should “safeguard the rights of victims, especially women and children who are often the victims of witchcraft allegations, regardless of whether witchcraft exists or not”.

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