Witch Branding  
 
Witches are almost always women, with a few exceptions of men called ‘daka’ who are often either related to a female witch or tutored by one, but never on their own. Women are always identified as the real culprits.
Historically the tribals have lived in a matriarchal society. Women have often had at least equal if not more powers than men. The tribal women are strong willed, hard working and talented.
 
 
Women often have more knowledge of the herbs and of the forests, they farm and control family affairs. All of which has led to a frustration of the male ego.
 
 
The tribals have abundant, almost obsessive, superstitions about female sexuality and reproductive cycles. The ability of the female body to mensurate with a precise cycle of four weeks, of its ability to reproduce another human being and after a certain stage in their life reach menopause. For example, Adivasis attribute 30 days of the month to mensuration cycles. And twelve months of the year are attributed to the period of pregnancy of 9 months plus 3 months that it takes for the menstruation cycle to start again. It is attributed that this confers some hidden, secret, supernatural, occult powers within certain, if not all, women. There is a very latent disdain for this female strength.
 
A law on Witch Hunting
 
 
One of the main demands that came out of the fact finding were for a specific law both for forbidding the practice of witch hunting, and providing a mechanism by which people responsible for branding of women as witches can be prosecuted. The opposing view states, compellingly that the Indian Penal Code has sufficient provisions under criminal intimidation, assault, grievous hurt and murder to book people responsible for branding women as witches under the purview of Law. Any action by the police is often taken only at the point when women actually suffer some tangible consequence, like assault, or grievous hurt or even death due to their branding as a witch. There is, despite the Indian Penal Code, glaring gaps to; take cognizance of branding of a woman as a witch itself as an offence; providing her with the much needed protection after that, and; prosecuting the people responsible for branding the woman as a witch. There is a need for a law on the lines of the Bihar Anti- Witch hunting Act 1999. The legislation should be aimed specifically to eradicate the practice of branding women as witches and killing them. Branding a woman itself should be made illegal and the offenders should be penalized.
 
 
Recommendations
 
 
There is a need to institute an enquiry to determine the need for a proper legislation that allows prosecuting the women along with the prosecutors. States has to provide special protection for women branded as witches and also making investigation a lot easier.
 
 
The health and education services in the villages should be upgraded. The government needs to work with NGOs to bring about change through awareness campaigns regarding the blind faith and educating people about the falsity of the concept of evil spirit.
 
 
It is also pertinent that women’s and tribal rights groups conduct their own investigation and provide more nuanced and contextual understanding of the existing scenario and make their own additional recommendations.
 
     
 
 
  Copyright@ 2009 India Women Welfare Foundation