Member of Parliament for Madina, Francis Xavier Sosu, has revealed that parliament’s passage of law to criminalize accusations of witchcraft, is to ensure that those beliefs and practices held by people are not injurious to other citizens.
According to him, to change society and reform the minds of people require a multifaceted approach. He indicated that one of them must be education, which must be based on a law which serves as a tool for social engineering.
Mr Sosu stated that it must be a tool to shift that part of society and shape the minds of people.
“I believe that a law like this has set the right tone to change the minds of persons… If you look at this bill, it is not seeking to even outlaw the existence and nonexistence of witchcraft. We are not seeking to criminalize freedom of thought and freedom of religion. I think what this bill has done simply is to ensure that all our beliefs and customary practices would be in sync with the 1992 constitution and would ensure that those beliefs and practices are not injurious to other citizens…”Francis Xavier Sosu
As a lead proponent for the passage of the bill, Mr Sosu noted that there have been several instances whereby women who are held in servitude in various witch camps are there because of a single belief which translates into possible action.
He explained that although people are entitled to their beliefs, when they go beyond their belief to now possibly accuse and label other people and seek to use all kinds of ordeal processes of proving or attempting to establish the said accusation, that situation has led to the death of many.
“Many have been excluded from their homes, fled their homes, left their properties and caused so much harm including death. So, we must understand that there will always be an interplay between culture and law. But when you take the 1992 constitution, particularly Article 26, it makes it very clear. It states that all customary practices which dehumanizes or are injurious to the physical and mental wellbeing of a person are prohibited. So, the laws are just enacted to regularize these practices and whatever we believe in to ensure that people are not endangered.”Francis Xavier Sosu
Reintegrating victims of witchcraft accusations
Commenting on how government will address the issue of such accusations being ingrained in communities where it is practiced, especially as the victims have found a haven in these camps, Mr Sosu noted that the reasons why people end up in those camps in the first place is as a result of accusations and labelling. With this, he explained that once government criminalizes such accusation and labelling, then those camps will “naturally run dry”.
This, he highlighted, is because government is truncating the process of creating camps and the process of getting people into places like that.
“Indeed, historically, the essence of those camps were to provide some haven for persons who have been labeled or accused. However, when you go to site and you actually visit these camps, like I have been to these camps with our stakeholders and other sponsors of this bill, it is obvious that these women are being held in servitude. Secondly, they live in very deplorable and dehumanizing conditions. Most of these women who may either be farmers formerly or doing their own trade, suddenly lose the opportunity to trade and farm…”Francis Xavier Sosu
Elaborating on the way forward, the legislator for Madina revealed that the law which criminalizes witchcraft makes room for reintegration, which is supposed to be led by the minister for Gender, Children, and Social Protection. He emphasized that the reintegration may be multifaceted but supported by the various CSOs that support this very work.
“It could be that some of those camps which have become like communities could be reformed. We could have alternative livelihood opportunities for them and those who are willing to move to their homes or resettled in other places, we ensured that they are resettled in those places. The whole essence of the law is to protect the most vulnerable…”Francis Xavier Sosu