Women Accused of Sorcery, an Excuse for the Use of Violence and Discrimination

"I have been abused by members of my family, they made me go through atrocities after accusing me of being a witch"

March 24, 2014 12:03

To accuse women of sorcery is nothing new. If we look through the history books, we realise that it has been a way of getting rid of women who were too intelligent, who were a little bit too daring for their time, or who were simply people were not liked.

In Kivu South, a province on the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, women are victims of sorcery accusations. Many messages received by the Femme au Fone (FAF) system relate to cases of women accused of sorcery and to abuses in the community through so-called popular justice.

Some women from Kalege, the Kalonge group, sent SMS messages to the radio to explain that the women suspected of being witches are even submitted to a "sorcery test". Jean Baptiste Mushagalusa, a civilian from that territory, describes how "this test is done by a clairvoyant woman sent by God". In Bukavu, capital of Kivu South province, women also deplore how they have been victims of brutal acts after being accused of sorcery. However, what has pushed us to write about this subject is the personal case of K. Christine.

Femme au Fone's testimony

In February 2014, Mrs. K. Christine, around 30 years old, arrived at the FAF office to explain her problem: she had been accused of sorcery by her brothers- and sisters-in-law. "It was a Saturday evening, my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law arrived with the dead body of one of their sisters who had been ill and had just died. They told me: you, the witch, you are going to pay for this, you are going to resurrect our sister who you bewitched or you will eat her body raw. Two of them jumped on me and started beating me. My husband didn´t open his mouth; on the contrary, he slapped me and I fell on the floor with my baby on the back. They locked me in the kitchen all night next to my sister-in-law´s body. It was really horrible...They allowed me to go out the day after subjecting me to every insult you can imagine".
K. Christine stops talking, looks up at the sky and then, full of sadness, adds: "Can you believe that I spent eleven years married to that man and that I had five children with him? But he allows himself to humiliate me, he has thrown me out of our house and deprived me from being with my children".

Femme au Fone also has a mission, to connect women who are victims of all kinds of gender violence with organisations that work to promote women's rights. That is why FAF has walked K. Christine to the headquarters of Action for the Promotion and Defense of Disadvantaged People's Rights (APRODEPED) (http://www.societecivile.cd/node/1464), because first of all, she wants to regain her dignity and take care of her children.

This situation is wretched. In Congolese law sorcery it is not an offence, and it is not recognised by the legislator", explains Julienne Mushagalusa, a teacher and executive secretary of the Jurist Congolese Women Association of Kivu South (http://www.infobascongo.net/beta/?tag=afejuco).

Christine's testimony is just one example of the sexist violations that women suffer when sorcery accusations are made against them. Some, after being publically humiliated, have been burned, stabbed or otherwise victimised by popular justice.

Article 16 of the Constitution of the Democratic Repubic of Congo states: "A human being is sacred. The state has the obligation to protect and respect this. Everyone has the right to physical integrity and to the free development of their personality, as long as they respect the rule of law, public order, the rights of others and good habits".

Professor Julienne Mushagalusa adds "The Authorities must strengthen such mechanisms that protect the right to life, sanction those guilty of popular justice and serve to re-establish victims' rights". In January 2014, the Kivu South government had promulgated an edict forbidding popular justice. Its effective implementation is still being awaited.

In relation to K. Christine, APRODEPED lawyer Gregoire Kasadi is following her case. He asserts that his organisation has filed a lawsuit with the district attorney to find a way to compensate this woman and to guarantee that she will retain custody of her children.


foto: Girls working in a sewing workshop in Goma, run by Children's Voice, an organization supporting children accused of sorcery