Malawi govt says witchcraft based violence a concern

The Ministry of disability and elderly affairs has stressed on the need for more studies to determine the extent to which witchcraft is affecting the society.

Speaking at the launch of a report titled ‘The Extent and Nature of Witchcraft-Based Violence against Children, Women and the Elderly in Malawi’ at Crossroads Hotels in Lilongwe Friday, Principal Secretary in the ministry George Mkondiwa said there is need to properly define the extent of witchcraft because vulnerable people are being affected.

“Government has noted with great concern over the rise of witchcraft related issues in the country. Unfortunately, traditional leaders are at the center of most witchcraft allegations in the society by bringing in witchdoctors to exorcise those suspected of practicing.”

Mkondiwa: Need for more research

“In most cases, victims end up losing their property and abused in various ways. We therefore, urge the community to report such issues to responsible authorities like the police so that victimization can be stopped,” he said.

Mkondiwa said government will take up the recommendations of the study and bring up necessary strategies to address the issue.

He said, “The study findings will strengthen the government’s voice on the matter and help give it the awareness it deserves. For example, the need for proper legal representation for those accused of practicing witchcraft and civic education for traditional leaders on the awareness of laws relating to the same, like the witchcraft act.”

He added, “There is a need therefore, to do more research to find out how real the practice is, so that related laws have to be specific to the actual situation on the ground.”

Human rights

In his remarks, the Royal Norwegian ambassador to Malawi, Asbjorn Eidhammer, whose embassy supported the study called on media to highlight witchcraft issues as they are being ignored.

“The issue of human rights is at stake here. Victims of witchcraft are being abused in many ways like physically, psychologically, social and economically. It is therefore, our moral obligation to support them, ”he said.

Eidhammer added, “Witchcraft issues are mostly related with cultural and traditional issues in the communities. We cannot ignore people’s beliefs, therefore, let us highlight the necessary attention on the matter so that the victims are properly assisted.”

According to the report, there is a wide belief that witchcraft is being practiced in the country although there is no definitive proof that the practice is real.

The study

The study also found that more women are mostly accused of the practicing witchcraft than men with children and the elderly also significantly affected.

It categorized the effects on witchcraft victims into four forms of violence namely, physical, social, economic and psychological.

The study was conducted in 8 districts of Karonga, Mzimba, Ntchisi, Dedza, Machinga, Thyolo, Blantyre and Mwanza.

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