The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning accusations of witchcraft, rituals and other harmful traditions that result in human rights violations in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
This followed six years of advocacy by a coalition of survivors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, lawyers and journalists against rituals and other harmful cultural practices in the country.
According to investigations, such harmful practices have been rife in Cross River, Akwa Ibom and other parts of the country, leading to stigmatisation of several children as witches and wizards, which result in serious psychological and bodily harm.
In a statement issued yesterday in Calabar, Director of Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), Gary Foxcroft, said UN Independent Expert on Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons With Albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, confirmed the resolution.
It explained that survivors of the harmful practices expressed delight and optimism at the news that the development might bring about the end of some of the human rights abuses.
“Across the world, women, children, the aged, persons with disabilities, particularly persons with albinism, and other conditions such as epilepsy, autism and dementia suffer various human rights abuses due to Harmful Practices Related to Accusations of Witchcraft and Ritual Attacks (HPAWR).
“These include, but are not limited to, killings, mutilation, exploitation and sale of persons, vital organs and body parts, burnings, grave robberies, torture and stigmatisation of victims and their family members,” the statement reads.
The group explained that both issues share several root causes such as entrenched ignorance about causes of sickness and death, religious profiteering, lack of access to adequate healthcare and information, poverty, weak justice system and security.
Corroborating Foxcroft, Dr. Charlotte Baker said: “Reported data shows that in the last decade, there have been at least 20,000 victims of these harmful practices in 50 countries and six continents. The victims have faced extreme human rights violations, including loss of life, limbs and property. Today marks an important step towards delivering justice for them and preventing more abuses”.
Foxcroft added: “One such person is Mariamu Staford, who has albinism and hails from the Lake District in Tanzania. In 2008, while sleeping with her two-year-old son, Mariamu was attacked by two men who cut off her arms, hoping to profit from the gruesome trade in body parts of people with albinism.
“Her son was unhurt, but she survived the loss of her arms after spending weeks in hospital. Mariamu identified her attackers, who were arrested, but not convicted of their crime. In a bitter twist, her village turned against her for bringing shame to them by seeking justice.”
She further noted that the UN resolution gave her personal hope, as a victim of the harmful practices, that one day, justice would be done and the injustice would end.
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