Following the Parliament of Ghana’s successful passage of The Criminal Offences Amendment Bill 2022, the Government of Ghana is poised to take decisive action in shutting down witch camps. These camps serve as havens for alleged witches who have faced shame, assault, and banishment from their communities, enduring deplorable conditions.
The recently passed law, which is awaiting the President of Ghana’s assent, prohibits the practice of witchcraft and witchfinding. It explicitly makes it illegal for individuals to operate as witch doctors or witchfinders, as well as forbids anyone from declaring, accusing, naming, or labeling another person as a witch or wizard.
Once the law is enforced, there is a strong possibility that all six known witch camps in northern Ghana will be shut down. The government’s success in this endeavor will depend on its ability to educate the public about the new law and its enforcement in communities that practice banishment of alleged witches.
These camps, located in Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo, and Nabuli, currently serve as refuges for those accused of witchcraft. However, the conditions in these camps are inhumane and degrading. Previous attempts to close them in 2014 were unsuccessful due, in part, to families and communities being hesitant to accept back those they had accused of witchcraft.
The bill’s lead sponsor and Madina Member of Parliament (MP), Francis Xavier Sosu, expressed his optimism about the government’s willingness to take practical measures to reunite the alleged witches with their families. He emphasized the significance of this development, stating that the 539 individuals currently confined in witch camps throughout the country are eagerly anticipating decisive actions to address the situation.
“The 8th parliament has deemed the bill necessary and has successfully passed it, aiming to address numerous societal issues. The passage of this bill is seen as a step towards creating a better society for everyone. The parliament urges the President to view this as an opportunity to enhance Ghana’s global standing in human rights, confident that he shares concerns about the country’s human rights profile and will promptly sign the bill into law.
The bill explicitly criminalizes the act of accusing someone of witchcraft, making it clear that such actions will face legal consequences. The lawmakers emphasize that they are not interfering with cultural practices, and individuals are free to use their wizardry or witchcraft for positive purposes. However, using black magic or charms to accuse others of witchcraft is deemed unacceptable under the new law”. Mr. Sosu said.