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Gift Mutsonziwa


Witch Hunting Is A Form Of Femicide Against women

Lynching of witches is targeted violence against vulnerable women..

BY Beryl karimi-La Patrona

Dec 01, 2022, 12:52 PM

Photo by

Gift Mutsonziwa

Four older women accused of being "witches" in Gusii land were lynched and murdered by members of their community in October 2021.  

They were old and widowed, and they were not the first women to experience something like that in Kenya. Witches have often been ostestrized from their communities or killed in mobs, and even though it is a form of Femicide against women, it is pretty acceptable to most people. Most people believe witches cause sickness, bad luck, and death. By the virtue of being against evil, they are always ready to join the mob lynching women accused of witchcraft without really interrogating whether those accusations hold any truth in them or not.

The act of burning witches at stakes, or killing them has been happening for centuries. It is a tradition that started in Western Europe in the 15th century and one that continues to affect women across Africa and around the world. In 2010 for example, the case of a 72-year-old Ghanaian woman who was set on fire and killed in the most gruesome murder shook the whole world. On prodding further it turned out that Ghana had witch camps that contained thousands of vulnerable women and female children who had been exiled from their communities on the account of witchcraft allegations. 

Women are always so vulnerable to abuse. If it is not an intimate partner abusing you, it is the extended family, and ordinarily the entire society too. The vast majority of women who are accused of witchcraft in different communities have very similar characteristics and they are always women who do not have any social protection from their close kin. 

Those who steer away from gender roles assigned to women at birth.

The witches being burned at stakes are always the poor elderly with no families, the widows, the childless, the unmarried, and what those women have in common is unfulfilled social obligations imposed on them by an oppressive society that does not have space for women who do not live to the patriarchal expectations of what a woman should be. As per the standards of patriarchal societies guided by misogyny, the humanity of a woman is determined by how well she conforms to standards that oppress her and how well she lives up to her social obligations even though they may be not of interest to her.

Read more; Orie Rogo Manduli: “I Am A Total Woman.”

Childfree women.

Women who do not have children for example either by choice or by the direct refusal of their bodies (infertility) are prone to receiving severe backlash in their communities. They are treated as outcasts who are not deserving of being part of the community. In ostracizing them the society makes them vulnerable to greedy people who organize their killings to grab their resources. Among the Gusii  in Kenya for example, widows are frequently victims of witch hunts because of land. 

Widowed women who have no male children.

A woman who does not have male protection is always at a very high risk of being labeled a witch when her husband dies. It happens to widows in many African communities and it is a terrifying thing for underprivileged women. 
To earn their keep, and their right to belong to society, these women have to give birth to children among them male ones because society still discriminates against people born in female bodies.  

Marriage offers women social protection and it should not be so. Women should be able to stay safe even when they are not attached to a male figure. The social protection women get in marriages is what also keeps them in abusive marriages since they know the society isn't welcoming towards divorced women. It accuses them of witchcraft and lynches them to death. 

The barbaric cultural customs of accusing older women of witchcraft and lynching them to push them out of their rightfully owned property needs to stop. No one deserves to be met by violence for failing to live up to gender stereotypes rooted in unchecked patriarchal violence.