Children accused of being witchcrafts are common practices within many Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. The word “accusation” in itself can be defined as, a claim that an individual has done something wrong or illegal. The problem with such accusations of child witchcraft is that, witches are culturally seen as a source of evil, a cause of disease, death and misfortune. Due to such cultural believes most individuals believe that a child witch should be abused, tortured, punished and or killed.
Past ideology associated witchcraft with the elderly, people living with disabilities, people living with a mental health condition and albinos due to the lack of understanding about diversity.
There has been a shift in past ideologies and children are now experiencing such accusations first hand. Children accused of witchcraft, are often subject to exorcism by self-proclaimed preachers who have strong believes that, extreme forms of torture can drive the demonic /satanic sprit out of a child. Children are beaten, burnt, starved and at times forced to drink hazardous substances as part of practices to drive out demonic/satanic spirits.
A documentary shown on BBC 3 (Branded a witch- Aired on Wed 29 May 2013) showed children been abused and murdered by relatives all in the name of being labelled a witch. On the 15 February 2016, Mail online reported a heart-breaking article of a charity worker giving a “starving two year old boy water after he was left for dead by his family because they thought he was witch”. The boy (later named Hope) was weak, emaciated and riddled with worms after living off scraps thrown to him by passer-by for eight (8) months. Hope was assisted to hospital where he was given medication and daily blood transfusion to incorporate red blood cells into his body for survival. Hope was lucky to be found.
Subsequently, there are more children in our communities who are being tortured and punished due to this “witchcraft” label. In October 2015, it was reported that 50,000 were children living on the streets of an African country as a result of being labelled a witch. Squeezing a toddler eye balls, shoving thumbs into their nose, violently punching their stomach where all part of a catholic priest practice to get rid of evil spirits (Mail One.2015).
The Metropolitan Police reported 60 crimes linked to faith in London in 2015, this is double from 23 in 2013 to 46 in 2014 (BBC. 2015). Although cases of child witchcraft is highly prevalent in countries outside the United Kingdom, it cannot be dismissed that, people from BME groups now living in the UK have migrated, from some of these countries and may still hold such cultural practices in high regard.
Specific reasons for such practices are unclear however, it is often put down to misfortune in the family. Life events such as death or illness in the family, marriage breakdown, loss of business or a child with challenging behaviour is often misinterpreted and seen as a fault of child witch.
This practice of witchcraft is real and has been evidenced through religion and individuals openly admitting to practicing witchcraft. However, targeting babies’ toddlers and young children who are vulnerable and cannot defend themselves due to unfortunate life events is foolish, ignorant and illegal. The lack of education within our communities on such matters puts our children at risk.
Safe Child Africa is a charity that educates and address this issue of child witches within our communities. Safe Child Africa assists victims by providing them with shelter, medical attention, counselling, legal action and removing them away from risky practices.
We as a community need to openly address such issues by supporting charities addressing these issues and understanding the dynamics of the human life span. Illness, death, family breakdown, challenging behaviour and misfortune are all part of life events. Reasons about why we experience such unpleasant trials are unknown however; putting our children through traumatic life threatening practices is not the solution.
References and further Reading