HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: More and more women are receiving cruel treatment in the name of practising witchcraft in recent days. The National Women Commission, which forwarded a draft Bill on Offence and Punishment for Witchcraft Accusation to the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare two years ago, says such cases have surged mainly because the ministry has not bothered to table the bill at the Cabinet for final approval.
Sheikh Chandtara, chairperson of the commission, said the ministry has not heeded to the commission’s repeated appeals to forward the Bill to the Cabinet without delay.
According to the draft, if a person intimidates or tortures a woman accusing her of practising witchery and the act causes the victim to commit suicide, then the guilty faces jail term of up to 10 years and a fine not exceeding Rs 100,000. Accomplices have to serve up to five years and a fine not exceeding Rs 50,000.
For each repeat offence, the fine gets doubled, states the Bill, adding that perpetrators should compensate the victims as per district courts’ decisions.
The Bill has it that anyone can register a verbal or written complaint against the practises of witchcraft. It states that police should investigate a withcraft case within 24 hours of its reporting. The government should establish rehabilitation centres and institute fund to provide legal and medical support to the victims.
“We have written to the ministry time and time again to send the Bill to the Cabinet, but to no avail,” said Chandtara, adding that the ministry has failed to understand the sensitivity of the matter.
She informed that the ministry is preparing to include witchcraft within a Bill on Social Malpractices, which has identified 53 types of such social malpractices and inhumane traditions.
Nepali women get victimised on the charge of practising witchcraft based on superstition, said the NWC chairperson, adding, “The problem is that we still don’t have laws to mete out harsh punishment to those, who torture women in their witch-hunt.”
She said the elderly, widows, extremely poor people and women from so- called lower castes are often singled out as witches. Women accused of witchcraft are traumatised because of physical and mental torture.
KATHMANDU: Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare Dan Bahadur Chaudhary said the ministry has made necessary preparations to prepare the draft bill to the Cabinet within 15 days. He added that the ministry is serious towards addressing the cases of women victimised in the name of practising witchcraft.