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Hunting Down the Witchcraft: Legal Inadequacy in India & Nepal


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Amidst the pandemonium arisen due to the notoriety of the COVID–19 virus, we cannot afford to be lost on the significance of how there continue to be deep-rooted pernicious influences that plague the lesser privileged strata of Indian and Nepalese societies. “Witch hunting” is one of such numerous influences and has persisted through the centuries, establishing itself as one of the most atrocious forms of violence against women. At a time when one would expect a massive downfall in the perpetuation of such practices due to the advancement of society and technology making it possible to communicate and convey grievances more effectively, the outcome is far too underwhelming. “Witch hunting” continues to be a vicious trend, claiming the lives of vulnerable women and ostracizing those, who are fortunate enough to evade the predatory fangs of the accusers but unfortunate to not have much to live for.

With respect to the Indian context, the practice has been able to sustain itself and is rampant in some states. This has primarily been possible due to the highly patriarchal and superstitious beliefs internalized within the societal structure of the rural areas. The dynamics of gender hegemony prevalent at the ground level render it near impossible to provide women with significance similar to that of men. In order to counteract the systematic oppression of women, an amendment in the Indian Succession Act was brought about in 2005, which sought to grant equal inheritance rights to women. Pursuant to the amendment, women were able to assert their claim for a share in the property of the deceased and were therefore economically well-off and self-sustaining. However, as absurd as it might sound, the implications of the amendment might have made life more arduous for some rural women.

Widows, who are generally the victims of the spiteful practice of “Witch hunting,” are entitled to a share in their late husband’s property. The fact that a widow acquires a relative amount of economic prowess by virtue of the property that she has inherited, raises the eyebrows of a number of envious men, who themselves do not enjoy such resources at their disposal and are of the belief that the handling of property is not the affair of a woman. Even male relatives, who are deprived of a share due to the amended inheritance laws, prove to be a dreadful ingredient in the ghastly tale of horror that typically ensues. Further, the land-grabbing mafias, who would profit from the death or departure of the “witch” as they could now sell off the land, also contribute towards the aggravation of the predicament faced by these hapless women. Therefore, it becomes clearly evident that the dominant causes behind the “Witch hunting” are embedded in either monetary interests or pertain to the inability of the power-deprived men to accept the higher economic or social status of a woman.


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