IN recent days, there have been a number of calls for the re-enactment of the Sorcery Act to deal with the problem of violence against those accused of sorcery and witchcraft.
However, when the Sorcery Act was in force, between 1971 and 2013, it was very rarely used to deal with concerns about sorcery.
Re-enacting the Sorcery Act is not likely to bring about any real change.
The village courts retain their powers to deal with a range of sorcery-related matters, such as people pretending to practice sorcery, and paying or offering to pay a person to perform acts of sorcery.
They have the ability to issue preventative orders that can stop accusations which may lead to violence.
Research directly related to supporting the Sorcery National Action Plan (SNAP) has discovered much better ways of dealing with the problem related to sorcery accusation violence, according to Associate Professor Miranda Forsyth who is with Australian National University.
First, accusations of sorcery are often made by blood relatives of those who are being accused, and often in the context of ongoing disputes about land or jealousy.
This means that communications within families need to be improved, and that mechanisms to mediate inter-family differences need to be strengthened.
Second, accusations of sorcery are often triggered by a death or sickness.
People who are experiencing grief are often not able to think straight and they may seek comfort from blaming others.
Communities need to be prepared for such accusations when there is a death and develop pathways to deal with grief in ways that do not lead to violence.
This may involve comforting the grieving family members while making strong statements against those who seek to blame sorcery.
Third, subjecting people to sorcery accusation related violence does not in fact resolve fears and concerns about sorcery within the community.
Instead it creates further victims and cycles of payback and misery.
Finally, there is a regular failure to bring the perpetrators of sorcery accusation related violence to justice through the state criminal justice system.
The laws to do this are all in place already.
These are crimes of willful murder, grievous bodily harm and assault – it is no defence to any of these crimes that the victim is accused of sorcery.
We also hear of people being tortured to get them to ‘confess’ to having committed sorcery.
Torturing a person is both a crime and not a reliable way of obtaining evidence.
It stands to sense that someone will say whatever they think their torturer wants them to say in order to get them to stop burning or cutting them.
We do not need another Sorcery Act. The laws are there.
Applying those laws and arresting and charging those who torture, burn and kill is the only realistic way towards eliminating this pervasive form of violence.
The Family nd Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) of the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council, as a core committee to the SNAP, strongly condemns any acts of violence that are committed against persons as a result of sorcery accusations.
Individuals must not take law into their own hands and must play a part in safeguarding lives of all citizens.
That means everyone including the media has a social obligation not to incite fear and violence related to sorcery.