In July of this year, the Ghanaian Parliament took a significant step by voting to criminalize accusations of witchcraft. Pending the president’s approval, this move could lead to the closure of camps where individuals accused of witchcraft seek refuge. The primary aim of this legislative measure is to address the longstanding issue of persecution faced by those accused of witchcraft. The proposal for this bill gained momentum after a tragic incident in July 2020, where a 90-year-old woman was lynched in Kafaba, drawing widespread condemnation from both local and international human rights organizations.
The societal problem of witchcraft allegations has far-reaching consequences, tearing families apart, undermining social harmony, creating unnecessary orphans, and displacing vulnerable women from their homes, separating them from loved ones, children, and grandchildren. The proposed bill aims to make it a criminal offense to declare, accuse, name, or label someone as a witch, carrying the penalty of imprisonment.
Currently, there are at least six witch camps in Ghana, providing shelter to approximately 1,000 women. These camps, located in Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo, and Naabuli in northern Ghana, have historical roots, with some believed to have been established over a century ago.
The catalyst for this legislative initiative was the brutal lynching of a 90-year-old woman named Akua Denteh in Kafaba, Savana region, following accusations of witchcraft in July 2020.
The proposed bill, presented as an amendment to the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), garnered support from several Members of Parliament. Sponsored by Francis Xavier Sosu, the Member of Parliament for Madina, this private member’s bill seeks to discourage assaults on alleged witches and prohibit individuals from practicing as witch doctors or witchfinders.
For the bill to become law, it requires approval from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.