The number of Nepali women being assaulted or tortured for allegedly practicing witchcraft is rising every year, according to the recent data release by the Nepali Police.
In Nepal, there is a widespread belief that some women –namely widows, elderly women, and poor women without family support, are witches with superstitious powers. Those who believe in witches and witchcraft think these women are bad luck and that they bring harm to both people and animals. Nepali Police Spokesperson DIG Keshav Adhaikari stated that according to their data, over 116 women across the country have been tortured in the last four years. Since last July, 27 cases have been reported across the country, an indication that the phenomenon is increasing.
Women accused of performing witchcraft have been subjected to beating, forced to strip naked and feed excrement, among others. Victims seldom file a case to the local police fearing that family and community would abandon them. The police spokesperson said a lack of awareness is the main reason for the increasing cases and police is talking various steps to prevent such cases.
On May 1, 2013, Chameli Chaudhary, a woman in Bhairahawa, a city 282 km west of Kathmandu, was abused and beaten for allegedly practicing witchcraft. She lodged a complaint with police saying that he relatives tried to put fire on her mouth while she was in a marriage ceremony.
Right activists noted there is no specific law regarding the punishment for the people involved in torturing women in the name of witchcraft. Two years ago, National Women Commission, a constitutional body formed to safeguard women’s right, forwarded a draft bill on offense and punishment for witchcraft but there has not been any initiation from government to make it a law. The clause 10 of Muluki Ain (General Code) has a provision that people involved in such cases would be sentenced to jail terms of up to two years.
In Nepal, superstition and caste-based discrimination is rife. Torturing women accused of practicing witchcraft is rampant not only in rural areas but also in the cities. Some people believed that a lack of action against those persecuting women accused as witches has caused such cases to rise, but police spokesperson Adhikari said they are punishing those involve in torturing women.
Author modified reprint: Nepali Women Accused of Witchcraft Tortured | Global Times