Children accused of witchcraft

An anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa


This study addresses the issue of children who are victims of violence and mistreatment due to local beliefs, representations and practices, in particular, relating to witchcraft. While the harmful consequences of these beliefs have been publicised internationally, their origins often remain unclear. The objective of the present document, therefore, is to reveal and analyze the diversity and complexity of these phenomena ‐ often falsely associated with “African tradition” ‐ related to beliefs in witchcraft and the “mystical” world. Using examples from sub‐Saharan Africa, the study aims to clarify the basis for certain social practices that are wholly or partially misunderstood by western observers. This ignorance of local social norms, creates a gulf of misunderstanding between local social actors and the international framework of norms.

Behaviours commonly associated with accusations of witchcraft include violence, mistreatment, abuse, infanticide and the abandonment of children. From a western perspective, such practices are violations of the rights of children. The objective of this study is to understand both the complexity and the variety of the phenomena described, as well as the causes, which are not only cultural and social, but also economic and political. The study targets child protection agencies and aims to promote better understanding of local representations and beliefs, as well as to provide guidance on effective child protection interventions.

Aleksandra Cimpric
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