The Minister of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, Dr Henry Seidu Daannaa, has appealed to the public not to exploit others in the name of culture and tradition.
He noted that, people, especially the vulnerable who were mostly women and children, most often had their human rights violated in the name of culture or tradition.
Dr Daannaa made the appeal at the first ever national conference on witchcraft accusations in the country, organised by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP) in Accra last Wednesday.
The conference, which brought together stakeholders, including traditional leaders, faith healers and non-governmental organisations, was on the theme: “Protecting the vulnerable: Witchcraft accusations and human rights abuses in Ghana” and was sponsored by ActionAid Ghana and IBIS-Ghana.
Know your rights
Dr Daannaa urged all to know and defend their rights and also be assertive.
He said most often due to ignorance, some people allowed themselves to be subjected to inhumane cultural practices which infringed on their rights.
Professor Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, a criminologist, in a keynote address, said although the country’s laws frowned on inhumane practices such as witchcraft accusations, people perpetrated them with impunity.
Witchcraft accusations, which he said were also practiced in developed countries, subjected victims to verbal or physical abuse including torture.
Those abuses and torture which he said were often inimical to the health of the victims, who were often elderly women and girls, left them in abject poverty.
Giving a personal testimony of how his mother was branded a witch because she could not give birth after two marriages and how her vilification intensified when she later gave birth to twins, Prof. Attafuah said most of those women were poor and vulnerable and, therefore, could not fight for their rights.
Luckily, Prof Attafuah said, his mother was able to stand up for her rights and lived up to 99 years.
He stressed that individual and collective social action was long overdue in dealing with the issue of witchcraft accusations in the country.
Welcoming participants to the conference, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, announced that together with ActionAid and the Go Home Project of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, the Bonyase Witches Camp in the Northern Region was going to be closed down on December 15, 2014.
She noted that most witchcraft accusation cases went unreported and were, therefore, perpetrated with impunity.
Nana Oye enumerated some of the causes for such accusations to include the lack of understanding of human rights by victims and the lack of power to exercise those rights, the lack of understanding of mental health problems, fear of reprisal from the community or family and the lack of faith in the legal system in resolving issues.
The President of the Alleged Witches Network, Madam Tachiri Muntari, who is an inmate of the Gambaga Witches Camp, pleaded with the government and civil societies to give them skills training so that they would be self-reliant when reintegrated into society.
Source: Daily Graphic
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