Story: News Desk
The Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal has called on President Akufo-Addo to quickly assent to the Witchcraft bill passed by Parliament.
During a stakeholders meeting organised by CHRAJ in Nalerigu to sensitise the residents on the new bill, he lamented the delay in assenting to it by the end of August.
He said considering the prevalent witchcraft-related attacks and the delays that the bill has already suffered, it will be unacceptable if President Akufo-Addo fails to assent to the bill.
“If the president who is a Human Rights defender, a rule of law advocate, delays more than one month in signing this bill which has already delayed so long in passing, then we need to redefine whether he is actually a human rights defender…how long does it take to sign?
“It was passed on July 27, so we have a few days to a month since then. I’ll say that’s unacceptable given the problems that we are confronted with over the years,” Mr Whittal stressed.
The meeting was organised by CHRAJ as part of its efforts to educate the populace on the new Witchcraft Bill passed by Parliament.
It was attended by representatives from the Traditional Authority and some selected public institutions among other participants.
The Commissioner, during the discussions also explained the concept of the new bill, its purposes, and sanctions for those who will flaunt it.
Describing the menace as dehumanising, he urged all the residents to reject all barbaric traditional cultural practices.
Mr Whittal further warned that any person, irrespective of their status in society who is found flaunting the bill once it becomes a law, will be dealt with accordingly.
“The law is clear. As soon as the law is passed, it is incumbent upon all of us to know how we speak, and how we take advantage of poor elderly women, stigmatising them because at that time it was only the chiefs who were to determine the punishment.
“Now the state has taken control, so, even the chiefs themselves will have a problem if they do or continue with any practices.”
But some of the participants in the meeting, particularly the members of the Traditional Authority also raised objections to the passage of the bill.
According to one participant, witchcraft does exist in the vicinity, hence passing the bill will allow the supposed witches to continue causing harm to the townsfolk.
He stressed that “It will be very difficult for some of us to erase the idea that witchcraft does not exist, or the practice does not exist… If the President should sign it then there will be a lot of sudden killings in the villages.”
On Friday, July 27, Parliament approved the Criminal Offences Amendment Bill 2022 which seeks to prohibit any person from practising as a witch doctor or witchfinder.
The bill was lobbied by Madina MP, Francis Xavier Sosu, and four other MPs with the aim to protect people accused of witchcraft.
The aim of the bill is to criminalise the declaration, accusation, naming, or labelling of another person as a witch in Ghana.
Also under the new bill, makeshift camps where people shunned by their communities take refuge will be dismantled.
The President must sign the bill before it becomes an effective law in the country.