Thursday, 28 October 2010

Humanism in action in Malawi

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Some very encouraging news reaches us from Malawi, where the Association for Secular Humanism has been campaigning for the release of Malawians convicted and jailed after being accused of practising witchcraft. These efforts were reported in the Guardian earlier this month, and they appear to have paid off. George Thindwa of the ASH informs us that he met with Malawi's Director of Public Prosecution, who has agreed to consider the release of prisoners held for witchcraft:
"The good news that the DPP communicated to ASH was that our appeal is in order and consideration will be made. He therefore requested ASH to provide a full comprehensive list of all those convicted of witchcraft as soon as possible. He further asked ASH to cover those that are on remand as well so that consideration could be done together with those convicted."
Thindwa is hoping the prisoners will be released in early December. Belief in witchcraft is widespread in Malawi, so the news that the government may be withdrawing its support for the persecution of accused "witches" represents a major success for the ASH. There is still plenty of work to be done, though – the persecution is not the preserve of the state, as the story of the women in this photo demonstrates. According to the Thindwa, "they were detained as witches by a witchdoctor for a month so that he could administer some concoctions on them to clear them of their so called witchcraftly. They had to pay for the services."
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