Saturday, May 30, 2009

The witch children of Nigeria

Children accused of engaging in witchcraft are frequently blamed for causing illness, death and destruction, prompting some communities to put them through harrowing punishments to "cleanse" them of their supposed magical powers. Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession. Many of those targeted have traits that make them stand out, including learning disabilities, stubbornness and ailments such as epilepsy. The issue of "child witches" is soaring in Nigeria and other parts of the world. The states of Akwa Ibom and Cross River have about 15,000 children branded as witches, and most of them end up abandoned and abused on the streets. About 1,000 people accused of being witches in Gambia were locked in detention centers in March 2009 and forced to drink a dangerous hallucinogenic potion. In 2005, relatives of an 8-year-old Angolan girl living in England were convicted of torturing her for being a "witch."

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