Cases of violence against women on accusations of witchcraft have been reported one after another in the Nepali media recently.
First, 41-year-old Gauri Devi Saha of Bara was severely beaten and forced to eat human waste by her neighbours for allegedly practising witchcraft. She was rescued by local police and was admitted into hospital for the treatment.
Last Tuesday, 61-year-old Man Maya Angbohang, was beaten black and blue by a group of local youth at her residence in Taplejung after accusations of being a witch. The unmarried woman had been living alone. She sustained serious injuries and is undergoing treatment. In another case, three Dalit women in Dang district were reported to have been tortured by villagers last Wednesday for the same charge.
Witchcraft is one of the most deeply rooted superstitions. Throughout history, people who were considered witches have been persecuted, tortured and murdered. The practice continues today and every year, thousands of people in Nepal, mostly older women and children, are accused of practising witchcraft. Often abused and cast out of their families and communities, many cases end in their murders.
It is almost always the socially and economically vulnerable women who suffer these accusations. These accusations seem almost an excuse to torture poor women who lack support from the rest of the community. Their poverty and lack of education make them easy targets.
Despite the involvement of various women's rights and human rights organisations, reports have been increasing in recent years. The Women's Rehabilitation Centre (Worec) documented at least 82 cases over the last two years in which women were tortured by neighbours on charges of practising witchcraft.