In a statement at the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International and its member, Humanists Malawi argued that a proposal by the government of Malawi to change the law to officially recognize the existence of witchcraft was “misguided,” and would likely lead to further stigmatization of alleged ‘witches’ and those working to support them. The special commission behind the proposal in Malawi has suggested that such a law would be in line with “Malawian beliefs.”
Humanists International first raised its concerns over the proposed legislation in a joint submission ahead of the report by the UN High Commissioner on human rights violations related to accusations of witchcraft. In the joint submission, Humanists International, along with four of its members and associates from Africa and India, gave a detailed analysis of the global drivers of witchcraft accusations, and provided insight into some of the key challenges hindering the efforts of activists and organizations working to end the harmful practice.
Building on the joint submission, in its statement Humanists International urged Malawi to develop an effective strategy to address the root causes of witchcraft accusations, including by developing a curriculum and teaching methods across schools that promote a scientific temper and critical thinking skills amongst children.
Wonderful Mkhutche, President of Humanists Malawi, commented:
“Over the past two years, we have witnessed the brutal killing of the elderly because of witchcraft accusations. There is no decisive action from the government to do away with the belief in witchcraft which is the root cause of the violence. Contrary to popular opinion, believing in witchcraft is not who we are as Malawians.
Even more worrying, the proposal on the cabinet’s table to recognize the existence of witchcraft is going to exacerbate the violence and burden our already overwhelmed courts with cases that cannot be proven.
As such, we call upon the government to turn away from this proposal and bring deliberate policies and actions that are aimed at defeating the belief in witchcraft.”