While lots of videos have been circulating on the web regarding this issue, we felt it important to give you a brief synopsis of the social context, the legal problem, current solutions and how you can help be a part of the solution.
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT/PROBLEM: In some parts of Africa and within certain rural areas of countries such as Kenya, Angola, DRC Congo, and Nigeria, children as young as infants and under 18 years are identified as witches. These children are said to be allegedly responsible for destruction, disease and death in their families and communities. Usually, the identification is made by so called spiritual leaders of extreme religious sects.
Once identified or stamped as ‘witches,’ a sense of urgency emerges within the community as both leaders and members of the community seek to quickly ostracize or heal the child. Ostracization usually takes place in the form of abandoning the child whether in a shelter, on the road or in the middle of nowhere. So called healing takes place in the form of torture [beating, maiming, burning etc.], praying and having the child drink dangerous concotions. Needless to say, these acts of torture usually result in serious and great bodily injury and at times death of alleged ‘child witches.’
For example, in the video clip above which shines the spot light on Nigeria, West Africa and specifically Akwa Ibom State, a so called ‘child witch’ had a 3 inch nail hammered into her head which rendered her mentally handicapped. In another instance, a spiritual leader in allegedly trying to drive the witch from a child gave the child the leader’s blood mixed with alcohol and mercury to drink. God forbid that leader is HIV +. He has just effectively passed the virus to the child
THE LEGAL PROBLEM: Nigeria, the heart of Africa, with over 140 million citizens serves as the place we want to begin making a difference. Within Nigeria, at issue is the Nigeria’s Child Rights Act. Currently, law makers are arguing over its provisions, reach and adoption. The Act provides for the following, among many: a definition of a child to be below 18, makes the “Best Interests of the Child” the #1 priority, provides for freedom from discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, ethinic group, religion, disability, prohibits against any form of abuse whether physical, verbal or psychological and prohibits against Child labor.
The synopsis of Nigeria’s CRA can be found here.. In 2003, the Act passed in Nigeria’s National Assembly. However, its execution and adoption has been an issue. While it appears the Act is adopted on a federal level, states somehow can choose to either adopt or not adopt the act. Further, they can do so with modifications to fit the cultural norms of each respective state.
The State of Akwa-Ibom’s Governor,Godswill Akpabio, ultimately signed the CRA into law, after a march by so called ‘child witches’ to the Governor’s office located at the city of Uyo, Akwa-Ibom. The problem, however, still remains the enforcement of the provisions in the act. Further, while the CRA provides a “Justice” clause, the focal point of the clause is the restructuring of the Juvenile justice laws concerning the Nigerian child. As in, if a child is accused of a crime, the CRA would come into play on whether that child should be prosecuted through the Child Justice System and if so, the due process afforded that child i.e. the right of the child has the right to a lawyer, a hearing, an opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses and cross examine witnesses who testify against the child.
WHAT THE CRA LACKS:The CRA appears to be silent on the issue of persons who perpetrate crimes on children. What happens to the spiritual leader, members of the community, parents, siblings etc. that violate the CRA statutes and/or cause injuries to children, especially those deemed ‘child witches?” The unanswered questions and lack of implementation and prosecution of violators of these inhumane acts against so called ‘child witches’ is probably why these violent acts continue. There is simply no deterrence to perpetrators of these violent and inhumane acts against children. The CRA also lacks a provision to educate its community on issues relating to child abuse, child labor etc.
Necessarily, statutes or laws that seek to protect African children: those we see across our screens in the West, and for some of us living in Africa, on the streets [hawking goods] when they should be in school, serving, literally,as slaves in the house of elites that use them as house boys and girls, prostituting themselves to make ends meet etc. must have prosecuting and definitely education clauses in the language of such statutes. The mind frame needs to shift and law makers on both federal and state level MUST stay committed [to protecting our children] and allocating funds to deal with what amounts to a genocide of Africa’s future, our children.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: While there are several petitions floating around, it the one we link below apepars to really target and put the pressure on Governor Akpabio. It is from the Akwa-Ibom community in the West and is not limited to Akwa-Ibomites. It has the essential elements of actions that the Governor must sit up and do so at least one of the major perpetrators of crimes against so called ‘Child Witches’ in Akwa-Ibom is brought to justice. To be a part of the solution, SIGN PETITION HERE. Share the link and encourage others to sign!