SRSG welcomes commitment to tackle impunity for witchcraft related human rights violations and to children's protection from violence

25/09/2017

To strengthen children's protection from violence and prevent associated risks, the Office of the Special Representative co-organized an international workshop in Geneva with the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network and Lancaster University.

States' representatives, alongside UN experts, academics and civil society organizations shared important experiences to raise awareness and enhance multi-stakeholder action to prevent and address witchcraft and related violence and harmful practices, building on and consolidating critical work done on this issue across regions.

"As this groundbreaking conference has highlighted, children continue to be used as scapegoats for family or community misfortune, and suffer violent punishment and abuse as a result of being accused or being perceived as witches. Acts of violence associated with witchcraft are largely under reported and remain concealed as a result of fear and social pressure; but in addition, they have devastating consequences on children's ability to thrive and enjoy a childhood free from fear. We need to reflect on lessons from the past and, guided by worldwide commitments to safeguard human rights, we must urgently put in place effective mechanisms to prevent and address this serious phenomenon", said Santos Pais.

Socially excluded children are at high risk of being accused of witchcraft and enduring unspeakable acts of violence. Children with disabilities, children with albinism, as well as those who are orphans, prematurely born or specially gifted or children who are simply deemed different face a double disadvantage in life and are often left furthest behind. Being branded a witch is a form of psychological violence in itself, but stigmatization and exclusion associated with witchcraft accusations are often associated with killings, mutilation and other forms of violence which are tantamount to torture. 

The incidents of violence and killing of children who are branded as witches are particularly grave violations of children's rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it imperative for children to be protected from any form of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the children's or their parents, legal guardians and other family members’ status, beliefs, opinions or activities. Children must be protected from all forms of violence, including harmful practices and acts of torture or other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. 

"I am delighted to have co-organised this historic meeting with strategic partners. Together and mobilizing leaders from all walks of life, we will continue to shed light and identify solutions, including advocacy, social mobilization, legislative and policy measures that can prevent these violent attacks, protect and ensure the recovery of victims, and fight impunity. Only this way will the world ensure that all children are truly protected from all forms of violence by the 2030 deadline set by the Sustainable Development Agenda,” she added.

Webcast 

Read more about the conference here: http://www.whrin.org/un-human-rights-council-event-witchcraft-and-human-rights-expert-workshop

Joint press release

Read the SRSGs report on harmful practices here