What are Child Witchcraft Accusations?
The reasons that accusations of witchcraft are made against young children are varied and complex.
In West Africa (and other countries within the African continent) many cultures place value on superstition within their world view and beliefs system.
In practical terms, this means that significant life events are often underpinned by these values, so when a family or community is struck by illness, misfortune, poverty or death ‘greater forces at work’ are sometimes perceived as the cause.
At the same time, over the last 10-15 years, the notion that young children, within parts of NIGRIA, are widely practising witchcraft and meddling with black magic has also gained momentum.
Overall this has created the ‘perfect storm’ for vulnerable, defenceless or unwanted children to be held accountable, persecuted and then branded as a child witch.
While an accusation of witchcraft is traumatic enough, persecuted children find themselves subjected to a torrent of neglect and brutality and may be forced to endure a barrage of cruelty and torture in the form of ceremonies of deliverance. These barbaric rituals
torture and abuse in the form of ceremonies of deliverance and exorcisms, delivered with the intention of 'driving the witch out' of the child. These exorcisms take on many brutal forms, including beatings, starvation, restraint and even forced feeding - to make the child ingest highly toxic, lethal concoctions intended to kill off the evil spirits believed to be controlling the child.
Want to know more about why witchcraft accusations happen?
The 2008 Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ documentary ‘Saving Africa’s Witch Children’ provides an in-depth look at the often complex and troubling practice of child witchcraft accusations, which is sadly on the increase. You can view the documentary here.
A recent 2018 report for the BBC, produced by reporter Marc Ellison provides an up to date window on the current situation of child witchcraft accusations in Nigeria. You can read the full report, here.