Patriarchy and Social Control

Witches:

“A 72-year-old Ghanaian woman [pictured left before she was taken to a hospital] has been burned to death on suspicion of being a witch, prompting condemnation from the country’s human rights groups.

Ama Hemmah was allegedly tortured into confessing she was a witch, doused in kerosene and set alight. She suffered horrific burns and died the following day.

Belief in witchcraft is relatively common in Ghana but there was widespread revulsion at the killing.

Hemmah, from Tema, was allegedly attacked by a group of five people, one of whom is an evangelical pastor, Ghana‘s Daily Graphic reported.

Three women and two men have been arrested. They are Nancy Nana Ama Akrofie, 46, photographer Samuel Ghunney, 50, Emelia Opoku, 37, Mary Sagoe, 52, and pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe, 55.

The suspects say the death was an accident and deny committing any crime. They claim they were trying to exorcise an evil spirit from the woman by rubbing anointing oil on her but it accidentally caught fire.

Augustine Gyening, assistant police commissioner, told the Daily Graphic that Sagoe saw Hemmah sitting in his sister’s bedroom on 20 November and raised an alarm, attracting the attention of people in the neighbourhood.

Gyening added that the suspects claimed Hemmah was a known witch and subjected her to severe torture, compelling her to confess. He said Ghunney then asked Opoku for a gallon of kerosene and with the help of his accomplices poured it over the victim and set her ablaze.”

An accusation of witchcraft and the consequences of such accusations (torture and death) are mechanisms of religious and patriarchal power. Religious leaders, mostly men, maintain their power through supposed power to spot witches and exorcise them. They capitalize on superstitious beliefs and social insecurities. Any woman can be a target. It is a stigma that is impossible to avoid or shed.It is a tricky form of deviance because it exists simply by virtue of, not specific actions, but denunciations by others. Therefore, it is impossible to “immunize” oneself against an accusation, since it is not action-based, and it is impossible to fight the accusation either.

See also the video here.

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