The Parliament of Ghana passed a bill on Friday that prohibits the practice of accusing others of witchcraft and criminalizes the declaration, accusation, naming or labelling of another person as a witch. The goal of the bill is address the persecution of people accused of witchcraft.
The bill was put forward as an amendment to the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and was sponsored by a number of Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament who participated in the discussion called for the abolition of witch camps in the country to deter accusations of witchcraft and persecution of people accused. The bill also addresses the issue of witch camps, which often house vulnerable individuals in Ghana, but the living conditions are uninhabitable.
Lead sponsor of the bill, MP Francis-Xavier Sosu said:
We urge the president that this is another opportunity for us to up our ranking in human rights globally. I do believe he is very concerned about our human rights profile. I’m confident that he will sign it immediately into law. What we are saying is that you cannot accuse somebody of witchcraft, if you do, that’s criminal and so the law will take its cause. We are not interfering in anybody’s cultural settings, if you are using your wizardly or witchcraft for positive development, go ahead and do it. But if you accuse somebody based on your black magic, or charms, that is not acceptable.
According to Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, the chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the Committee was of the view that there was a long overdue need to pass a law to deter accusations of witchcraft and its attendant human rights abuse, provide a legal framework to law enforcement agencies to prosecute offenders of Human rights out of witchcraft accusations and, give confidence to victims currently residing in witch camps to reintegrate into their communities and unite with their families.
The action comes days after Ghana’s parliament voted to end the death penalty and move instead to life imprisonments.