15 April 2008

No more child witches in Congo?

clipped from www.bbc.co.uk
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is expected to vote shortly for new legislation that will make it a criminal offence to accuse a child of being a witch.

Many of the hundreds of children who are sleeping rough on the streets of the capital city Kinshasa have been accused of being witches. But is it possible to legislate against such deeply held beliefs and can such a law be enforced in a country that has been so fractured by war?

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Whether the law can be enforced in such a fractured country is indeed a moot point, but so is the idea of these "deeply-held" beliefs.

These beliefs, to all accounts, appeared quite suddenly in recent history. Perhaps they could disappear just as suddenly. What we need to find is what it takes to make them disappear, and perhaps it could help to find what caused them to appear in the first place.

The DRC, like other African countries, has long had many people who believe that misfortunes are caused by witchcraft and sorcery. What appears to be new is the belief that these witches are young children, and that it is occurring on such a scale. Perhaps it is the very fractured nature of the society that is causing these beliefs to spread and be deeply held.

Hat-tip to What is witchcraft.

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