Tuesday 12 August 2014

Leo Igwe on Witchcraft Belief, Misogyny and Murder

Leo Igwe spoke last night at a talk arranged by London Black Atheists and the Central London Humanist Group, on Witchcraft Belief, Misogyny and Murder in the 21st century. I expect the talk may be posted in due course, but in the meantime, my impressions...

He discussed some aspects of witch culture in Nigeria, the effect on victims of witchcraft accusations and the social forces that support witchcraft belief. We've heard quite a lot lately about child victims of witchcraft accusation, but last night, Igwe focused on elderly women, no longer wanted by their families and frequently excluded to 'witch camps'.

The important thing is, how do we stop people hunting witches in Nigeria? After listening to the talk and discussion, I think the bad news is it will probably require a major extension and reform of educational, legal and medical infrastructures, and massive reductions in socio-economic inequality. In the absence of magic wands for getting from here to there, Igwe suggested some more immediately achievable tactics.

He called for programs to support victims of witchcraft accusation and, especially for westerners, attempts to block the expansion of Nigerian witch-hunters, exorcists and witchcraft belief encouragers into the west. This not only keeps them away from fresh victims but blocks their access to a potential source of status. UK activists seem to have had some success in this field in 2014, against witch-hunter Helen Ukpabio, after protesting to her venues and to government authorities.

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