Tuesday, May 10, 2011

India Has the Right Idea

One of the problems with witchcraft persecutions in many parts of the world is that the accusations themselves are not illegal. Authorities usually have to wait until violence is instigated against accused witches before they can arrest and charge anyone. A new bill in India is set to change that. In addition to criminalizing violence against accused witches, it institutes criminal penalties for the accusers as well.

According to the bill, whoever accuses or defames a woman by calling her Dayan or Dakan or Dakin, Chudail or Bhootni or Bhootdi or Chilavan or Opri or Ranndkadi or any other name or symbol suggesting her to be a witch, and accuses a woman of performing witchcraft or her performing any puja, use of mantra, tantra etc. aimed at harming any person; shall be punishable with imprisonment up to a term of three years with minimum fine of Rs 1,000 which may increased to Rs 5,000.

Furthermore, whoever, in the name of performing witchcraft or her being possessed one', uses criminal force against a woman and/or instigates or provokes others in doing so with intent to harm and/or to displace her from the house, place or the property, lawfully occupied or owned by her or to coerce her to leave the area of which she is a rightful resident or a visitor, shall be punishable with imprisonment of a term which may extend to seven years and with fine which may extend to Rs 20,000.

Besides, whoever intimidates a woman, calling her a witch and accuses her of practising witchcraft, to the extent that the woman is forced to commit suicide shall be punishable with imprisonment of a term of five years which may extend to 10 years with minimum fine of Rs 25,000 which may extend to Rs 50,000.

This is an idea that needs to catch on anywhere that accused witches are still being executed by angry mobs, since clearly those accusations put lives in danger. Here's hoping that the bill passes and helps put a stop to this nonsense.

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