You can’t call anyone witch in Ghana, it’s an offence – Parliament

The country has passed a new law that makes it illegal to accuse anyone of being a witch. The Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was approved by Parliament, and it specifically prohibits the act of accusing, naming, or labeling someone as a witch, along with related practices.

The main objective of this bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), in order to forbid individuals from acting as witch doctors or witch finders. This legislation is part of a broader strategy to address attacks and human rights violations stemming from witchcraft accusations.

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During the debate before the bill’s final reading, all Members of Parliament who participated unanimously supported the criminalization of all witchcraft activities and accusations, as well as the dismantling of all witchcraft camps in the country. They argued that this approach would discourage witchcraft accusations and the associated human rights abuses, and it would establish a legal framework for law enforcement agencies to prosecute those responsible for such violations.

The bill was introduced in Parliament on March 31, 2023, by Francis-Xavier Sosu, the Member of Parliament for Madina, along with other co-sponsors, including Hajia Laadi Ayii Ayamba, MP for Pusiga; Dr. Godfred Seidu Jasaw, MP for Wa East; Helen Adjoa Ntoso, MP for Krachi; and Betty Nana Efua Krosbi Mensah, MP for Afram Plains North.

The bill was referred by the Speaker of Parliament to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs for review and reporting back to the House.

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The background of the bill highlights that accusations of witchcraft were once prevalent in the 16th and 17th centuries in England, leading to the Witchcraft Act of 1735 being passed by the UK Parliament to criminalize such accusations. Similarly, the lack of knowledge and education has resulted in vulnerable individuals, particularly elderly women, some of whom may be suffering from dementia, being subjected to intimidation, physical violence, and coerced confessions of being witches. Consequently, they have been banished or even lynched in certain cases.

The tragic lynching of a 90-year-old woman named Akua Denteh in Kafaba, East Gonja Municipality, Savannah Region, on July 23, 2020, following accusations of witchcraft, was a significant catalyst for the introduction of this bill. In response to this unfortunate incident, The Sanneh Institute formally petitioned Parliament on August 4, 2020, urging the passing of legislation to criminalize the practice of witchcraft accusation.

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