Ghanaian laws have turned a blind eye to activities of fetishism, witchcraft and witch-hunting. The existence of witchcraft cannot be denied in the society of men. Lord Hale remarked that “There are such creatures as witches I do not doubt at all. First, the scriptures affirmed so much. Secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, which is an argument of their confidence in such a crime.” (See the Trial of the Suffolk Witches, 6 St. Tr. 687 at 700-01 (1665)).
In other jurisdictions, the Witchcraft Act has been passed to prevent people from engaging in activities that are associated with witchcraft. In South Africa, Section 1(f) of the Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act 3 of 1957 criminalizes activities that are related to witchcraft and practiced for gain
pretends. Some of these activities include sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, or undertaking or telling of fortunes and among others.
In Zambia, witchcraft includes the throwing of bones, the use of charms, and any other means, process, or device adopted in the practice of witchcraft or sorcery (Witchcraft Act 1914, Zambia). In the United Kingdom, the English Fraudulent Mediums Act which has reenacted the old Witchcraft Act 1735 punishes people who “pretend to exercise any kind of witchcraft, sorcery or conjuration.” It must be emphasized that these laws on witchcraft also prevent and criminalize witch-hunting.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, witch-hunting is "an attempt to find and punish people whose opinions are unpopular and who are said to be a danger to society.”
Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957 of South Africa criminalizes number activities of witch-hunting; Section 1 criminalizes “imputing to any person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing, or naming or indicating any other person as a wizard.”
Activities of alleged-witches that are weird and considered as bewitching in their various communities should be abolished. Illustratively, in R v. Fabiano Kinene (1914)8 E.A.C.A. 96, the accused killed an alleged witch who was found crawling naked in his compound early in the morning. Activities such as seen in R v. Fabiano Kinene (supra) should be entirely abolished. The chiefs should be admonished to pass bye-laws to serve as “flesh” to state laws to curb activities so weird and bewitching. As seen in the Zambian Witchcraft Act 1914, the throwing of bones, the use of charms, and any other means, process, or device adopted in the practice of witchcraft or sorcery should be abolished.
Ghana needs State Laws to curb the activities of witch-hunting. The old must be treated with kindness and not served with unimaginable accusations, assaults, and killing. In most parts of the world and even in certain parts of Ghana, old-age is a blessing; however, this is rather the opposite in the Northern part of Ghana for the aged especially old women. Due to the abject poverty in these areas, the aged are susceptible to being accused of any kind of misfortune befalling a family or the community. In light of this, people who accuse others of being witches should be manifestly punished by the law. The law should not take course only when such an alleged witch is assaulted to death but rather prevent the assault by punishing the accusers. As seen in Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957 of South Africa, any person who engages in the act of imputing to any person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing, or naming or indicating any other person as a wizard commits an offense. The Ghanaian laws must stop the suppression of the old and vulnerable in society.
Ghana seeks to renovate existing witch camps into havens. This would lessen the humiliation however; it does not stop the stigmatization. As long as these areas are named witch camps, inhabitants and their generations yet unborn will be stigmatized with the title of witches, hence a need for laws to stop the suppression, accusation, and possible integration of our mothers and fathers into the society.
By: Dapuri M. Cephas