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Regional News of Thursday, 1 April 2021

Source: GNA

Alleged witches have limited access to justice - Survey

94.8 per cent of alleged witches said they had limited awareness avenue to seeking justice 94.8 per cent of alleged witches said they had limited awareness avenue to seeking justice

A survey conducted by Songtaba, a women advocacy non-governmental organization (NGO), has found out that inmates of alleged witch camps in the Northern Region have limited access to justice when accused of being witches.

The study revealed that “94.8 per cent of alleged witches who were sampled said they had limited awareness of the avenues for seeking justice as at the time of their accusations and abuse. They only knew of the chief palaces in their communities”.

Madam Lamnatu Adam, Executive Director of Songtaba, who presented the report, said “Chiefs and other community stakeholders who were to ensure that each and everyone was treated justly, rather facilitated the denial and even infringe on their rights to be given a hearing. It was rather a shrine which was resorted to, to determine their fate as to whether an alleged victim is guilty or not”.

This was made known at a stakeholders’ forum, in Tamale, organized by Songtaba, to launch findings of the report, titled; “Socio-economic and livelihood conditions of accused and abused women: A case of inmates and non-inmates of Gnani and Kpatinga alleged witch camps”.

The forum was on the theme; “A call for enhanced policy response and action in creating support systems during emergency times for vulnerable groups and their dependants”

The study, supported by STAR-Ghana Foundation and the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAid), was to identify policy gaps for the protection of vulnerable groups in times of emergencies for advocacy.

Madam Adam further stated that “97 per cent of the respondents indicated that all matters and decisions that directly affect them are made for them and in most cases, they are directed as to what to say to external visitors such as NGOs and others”.

She, therefore, appealed to policymakers and other stakeholders such as the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), to educate and intensify public awareness on platforms to report and seek justice when one is accused of witchcraft and abused.

Some of the participants at the forum also called for stakeholder consultative engagements between human rights organizations and traditional authorities to sensitize chiefs and elders on the consequences of human rights abuse associated with accusing women of witchcraft and how they could stop the act in their communities.

They further called on MoGCSP to adopt policies that would guarantee the safety of inmates at the various alleged witch camps to ensure they realized their fundamental human rights.