India: More Than 2000 Women Killed as Witches Since 2004
Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:15 AM

More than 2000 Indian women have been accused of witchcraft, tortured and killed in the past decadeWhile many blame tribal superstitions for these witch-hunt killings, others such as Dr. Rakesh Singh of the Indian Social Institute say they are “a legacy of violence against women,” especially vulnerable women who are members of lower castes, living in poverty, or living alone. Villagers often make witchcraft accusations against women to place blame when a child falls ill or crops fail; to take the woman’s property after she has been killed or ostracized; or to punish the woman for refusing sexual advances or questioning societal norms.

Witch killings take place primarily in Indian states with high tribal populations, and have been on the rise over the past 12 years. Although instances are likely underreported, studies have found that between 2,000 and 2,500 witch-hunt killings have occurred over the past decade. Victims of such killings face public humiliation and physical torture, including gang rape, mutilation, and forced consumption of offensive materials, before being killed by mob beatings, hangings, or live burials.

Currently, India has no national law against this type of femicide. Local laws fall short of preventing or punishing such crimes due to low maximum sentences and because many offenders have high social status. Offenders who do face prosecution are often charged with a lesser offense, such as assault.

Compiled from: McCoy, Terrence, Thousands of women, accused of sorcery, tortured and executed in Indian witch hunts, Washington Post (July 21, 2014); Singh, Dr. Rakesh K., Witch-Hunting: Alive and Kicking, Indian Social Institute, Women’s Link Vol. 17, No. 1 (2011); Suraj, Sagar, Woman branded witch, beaten to death in Bihar, Hindustan Times (July 20, 2014).