Witchcraft Legal Aid in Africa

March 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

Interesting recent story in New York Times by Chi Mgbako, clinical associate professor of law and director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School in New York City. He shares his experience with an NGO run mobile legal clinic in Malawi providing help and advice to people accused of black magic and other forms of witchcraft. Not surprisingly elder women and children are among the most likely to be accused. Together with the irrational element of fear, the author shares that often times the motives are to appropriate the property of the accused. Another interesting point is that along with economic hardship it is also the limited opportunities for political participation and expression contribute to the practice:

“Economically oppressed people who lack political outlets to express their grievances may also turn to leveling accusations of witchcraft. Conflict, internal displacement, the lack of development, and the weight of HIV/AIDS on families have all contributed to the rise of witchcraft accusations in Africa.”

There is a law in Malawi outlawing the practice but as everyone knows a written law itself is doing little good. People are not superstitious because they do not know the law. I think the real value of the legal clinic was to empower the poor defendants through standing behind them. Having law students on their side they are not any more  helpless victims.

Read the whole article here

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Entry filed under: Access to Justice, Human Rights, Legal Empowerment, Malawi, Traditional Justice.

A2J Author® 4.0 Released Strengthening access to justice in Zambia

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