UN Human Rights Council, 52nd session (27 February – 4 April 2023)
General Debate 3
We welcome the report of the UN High Commissioner on human rights violations related to accusations of witchcraft.
I make this statement on behalf of Humanists International and our member organization, Humanists Malawi.
As the report notes, tackling witchcraft-related violence requires addressing its root causes, which include high-levels of poverty and illiteracy. Malawi is both one of the poorest countries in the world, and one where witchcraft belief is deeply-rooted.
We are concerned that Malawi is currently considering a legal amendment to recognize the existence of witchcraft in line with ‘Malawian beliefs.’ This approach is misguided. Access to justice for alleged witches is already severely limited because many law enforcement and policy officials themselves believe in witchcraft.
By providing further legitimacy to the idea that ‘witchcraft’ exists, the government risks further stigmatizing those denounced as ‘witches’, normalizing impunity for witchcraft-related violence, and undermining the work of civil society organizations.
As we emphasized in our recent joint written submission, children’s equal right to education, including access to a curriculum that promotes a scientific temper and critical thinking skills, is an essential tool that will empower individuals to reject harmful superstitions.
We call on Malawi, as a member of this Council, to heed the report’s recommendations, and to develop an effective strategy that addresses the harmful superstitions underlying witchcraft accusations, rather than engage in needless fear mongering.
I thank you.
 According to one survey by Afrobarometer, three in four Malawians (74%) believe “a lot” in the existence of witchcraft, while almost three-fourths (72%) of Malawians say witchcraft should be criminalized, available at: https://www.afrobarometer.org/articles/most-malawians-believe-in-the-existence-of-witchcraft-and-support-criminalising-it/
'Witchcraft related human rights violations in Malawi', Humanists International