Advocacy statements

Child sacrifice

  • Date / 2019
  • Location / South Africa

International Humanist and Ethical Union

40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (25th February – 22nd March 2019)

General Debate on Item 4

A few days ago, Archaeologists working in Peru found evidence of the ritual sacrifice of around 140 children, which occurred in 1450. Scientists suggest the Chimu civilization sacrificed the children in response to catastrophic weather.[1]

To most, the finding represents abhorrent acts from a time when people had little understanding of science, relying instead on superstition.

Yet, child sacrifice continues today.

In Uganda children disappear frequently, murdered or mutilated by witch doctors as part of ceremonial rituals supposed to bring “luck” to those who pay.[2]

In Nigeria, some evangelical preachers encourage people to believe children are witches. Abuse, abandonment and murder can follow.[3]

In South Africa, some traditional healers use the body parts of sacrificed children as ingredients in their “medicines.”[4]

Child sacrifice rituals can involve the cutting or removal of body parts, faces or genitals. These brutal acts are frequently done whilst the child is still alive since there is a belief that the screams of a victim being attacked enhance the power of the body parts, as does the innocence of the victim.[5]

Despite laws against child sacrifice, poor implementation, lack of education and an absence of clear principles and priorities for the elimination of the horrific practice mean that there are many children who still suffer.


[1] http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/03/07/hundreds-of-children-llamas-found-sacrificed-by-ancient-peruvian/#.XIeONohKg2w

[2] https://pulitzercenter.org/projects/africa/child-sacrifice-uganda

[3]https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53996fa5e4b0719132a72270/t/54db5dd0e4b0da00562a439b/1423662544249/Witchcraft+Accusations+UNHCR.pdf, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53996fa5e4b0719132a72270/t/54db5e8ee4b00d56034686df/1423662734228/UNCRC+Shadow+Report+SSN+2009.pdf, https://www.theguardian.com/observer/gallery/2007/dec/09/witches?picture=331488389

[4] https://www.thesouthafrican.com/tsa-weird-on-the-hunt-for-human-sacrifice/, https://www.ncronline.org/news/world/witch-doctors-are-sacrificing-children-drought-stricken-african-country

[5] A/71/255, http://www.whrin.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/childreninafricanwitchhuntsfinalversion-1-Felix-Riedel-2.pdf

Suggested academic reference

'Child sacrifice', Humanists International

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