The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Ghana, Africa, has announced that all of the witch camps in the nation will officially be closed on December 15 with plans to attempt a reintegration of the victims to local communities of their choosing.
Ministry officials say that they are closing the witch camps in an attempt to help end the abuses that are suffered by the accused.
Closing the camps will “affirm the nation’s commitment to ending human rights abuses associated with witchcraft accusations,” the ministry said.
Plans to reintegrate the victims who currently live at the witch camps will be aided by a number of organizations and agencies in Ghana, including the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, Action Aid Ghana and its partners Songtaba, as well as those in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
There are around six witch camps in the nation housing nearly 700 victims, the majority of who are poor and elderly women between 60-70 years of age and the conditions in which they have to live in within the camps are “deplorable,” the ministry said, adding that simple necessities such as food and water are often scarce.
In preparation for the closure of the witch camps, the ministry is hosting a conference today in an attempt to raise international awareness about the plight of those who are accused of practicing witchcraft. The conference, titled “Protecting the Vulnerable: Witchcraft Accusations and Human Rights Abuse in Ghana” hopes to get local support to end violence against those branded as witches in their nation.
Women are often abused, tortured, and either killed or exiled from their homes and communities, leaving them homeless and with no means of support and no way to survive. Up until now, such women have been placed in a witch camp — but now that will change. The witch camps have been called by the Independent the “last refuge of the powerless and the persecuted,” which raises the question of whether or not closing the camps will help better the lives of the accused or simply worsen the humanitarian crisis. While some are pushing for this move, others are concerned for the future of accused witches.
Ghana is not alone in this humanitarian problem. All over the world, the accusation of witchcraft carries terrifying consequences for women and children. In just recent months women have been tortured and killed, some burned alive at the stake, in India, Tanzania, and Paraguay. Even in the United States, two recent murders occurred because the perpetrators believed that their victims were practicing witchcraft, leaving many to fear for the fate of witches. With no witch camps left, it remains unclear what will happen to future victims.