HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has been unable to table a bill on witchcraft in the cabinet due to the delay in appointment of its minister.
Sher Jung Karki, undersecretary at the law section of the ministry, said they have completed procedures to review and revise the draft of the national law that the National Women Commission had prepared and submitted two years ago for the ministry’s approval.
The bill will be tabled in the Cabinet as soon soon as the ministry gets its minister. And once the Cabinet endorses the bill, it will be presented to the Parliament, said Karki.
According to the draft, if a person intimidates or tortures a woman by calling her a ‘witch’ and such harassment results in her suicide, then he or she can face imprisonment up to 10 years with a fine not exceeding Rs 100,000, and half the punishment for accomplices.
Repeat offenders will have to pay double the charge every time, according to the draft, which guarantees compensation to the victim from the perpetrators as per the district court’s decision.
The bill has a provision that anyone can register a verbal or a written complaint against witchcraft practices. Police should investigate such a case within 24 hours of the event. The government should establish rehabilitation centres for the victims and provide them with legal and medical support.
NWC chairperson Sheikh Chandtara expressed hope that the bill will get a boost with the appointment of minister.
She said number of cases related to witchcraft charges will go down if there are laws to punish the offenders. The country does not have any laws to apply harsh punishment to those who torture women in their witch-hunt, Chandtara added. Women fall victim to accusations of witchcraft and are tortured despite the fact that the accusations are based on superstition, said the chairperson.
She said the elders, widows, extremely poor and so-called ‘lower-caste’ women are often singled out as witches. Women accused of witchcraft are severely traumatised and suffer physical and mental torture.