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Anti-witchcraft bill awaits presidential assent as suspects suffer

People labelled as witches or wizards continue to suffer at the hands of others, despite the passage of the criminal offences amendment bill by Parliament three months ago.

The bill is among others to protect persons accused of witchcraft.

The Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, also known as the anti-witchcraft bill, prohibits the activities of witch doctors or witch-finders.

It also forbids the accusation of people as witches or wizards.

But some civil society groups have expressed concern over the delay in signing the bill into law.

When a bill is passed by Parliament, it takes a few days for the legislature to send it to the presidency and in less than a week, the bill is signed into law by the President.

However, that is not the case with the anti-witchcraft bill.

It’s been three months since its passage and yet to be signed by the President.
Executive Director of the Sanneh Institute, Professor John Azumah asserts that the bill is still in Parliament, citing the ongoing threat to lives due to accusations of witchcraft and wizardry.

‘’We all spoke out, people condemned it and then when it comes to acting to bring about legislation to help address the issue, there is some foot-dragging or there is some attempts to stall the bill. We are waiting for Parliament to resume from recess and we will go and demand to know where the bill is. We have been on the ground we’ve tried to be sensitive to the communities. We’ve done a lot of education. Some of the people see it as a cultural practice. Therefore, education alone cannot work.’’

He advocates for a law that acts as a deterrent and allows the police to arrest and prosecute perpetrators.

‘’All the police can do is arrest people when there is physical violence and that is the problem because the accusation doesn’t just come with physical violence alone, but it comes with banishment, it comes with ceasure of people’s properties and their land back in the communities, they drive them away from their homes and they live in isolation in communities that they are strangers in.’’

In an interview with the Majority Leader Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu who also heads government business, he said Parliament has long transferred the bill to the presidency.

‘’All the bills that were passed by Parliament all of them are gone to the presidency. There are a couple of them that, my understanding is the Attorney-General has raised some issues with, but I think it doesn’t include the anti-witchcraft bill. The President, the last time he spoke with me he wanted to have some consultation with the Speaker on those two bills. I think the anti-witchcraft is not part of it.’’

The main question remains: what is preventing the President from signing the bill for it to become law?

Source: 3news

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