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Ghanaian Woman Burned To Death As A “Witch”

November 30, 2010

From Care2
By Judy Molland

In a blatantly misogynistic and barbaric act, a 72-year-old grandmother in Ghana was burned to death earlier this month on suspicion of being a witch.

Forced To Confess, Then Set Alight

Ama Hemmeh was allegedly tortured into confessing that she was a witch, doused with kerosene and set alight. A student nurse came to Hemmeh’s rescue and sent her to Tema General Hospital, but she died within 24 hours from severe burns.

One Of The Attackers: An Evangelical Pastor

From The Guardian:

Three women and two men have been arrested. They are Nancy Nana Ama Akrofie, 46, photographer Samuel Gunney, 50, Emelia Opoku, 37, Mary Sagoe, 52, and pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe, 55.

The suspects say the death was an accident and deny committing any crime. They claim they were trying to exorcise an evil spirit from the woman by rubbing anointing oil on her but it accidentally caught fire.

Augustine Gyening, assistant police commissioner, told the Daily Graphic that Sagoe saw Hemmeh sitting in his sister’s bedroom on 20 November and raised an alarm, attracting the attention of people in the neighborhood.

Gyening added that the suspects claimed Hemmeh was a known witch and subjected her to severe torture, compelling her to confess. He said Ghunney then asked Opoku for a gallon of kerosene and with the help of his accomplices poured it over the victim and set her ablaze.

Widespread Condemnation

The incident has been widely condemned by human rights and women’s rights activists. They have also expressed outrage and disbelief that a pastor, whose responsibility it is to save lives, would actually take part in this grisly execution, supposedly in the name of God.

Belief in “black” witchcraft is still common in Ghana, and there are over 1,000 women who have been condemned as witches and are now living in camps. Who are these women? I learned from watching Ghana: The witches of Gambaga (below as well) that one woman got in a fight with her brother, struck him, and that night he died. The whole family condemned her as a witch and drove her out of town.

The Guardian | Ghana: The witches of Gambaga

 

Reminiscent Of Witch Executions 400 Years Ago

The same treatment was meted out to another woman, whose neighbor died in childbirth.  Watching this powerful video about their situation, and how they came to be called “witches,” brought to mind the situation of the so-called witches of England and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Then, too, a bad harvest, a severe frost, the death of young children, all of these events could be and were blamed on “witches,” generally old women living alone who had no one to protect them. The Witchfinder General went from town to town, calling on the locals to name anyone who they thought might be a witch. And of course, if you did not name a “witch” yourself, suspicion could fall on you.

Almost 100% Female Victims

After torture, the women so-named would often confess to witchcraft, and then they would be hanged (in England) or burned at the stake (in Scotland). Women and men both took part in the accusations, anxious to preserve their own good names, but almost 100% of the victims were female. Thousands died this way.

To read of identical superstitions, fear of women, torture and death 400 years later is truly depressing. And yet another reason to support the education of women around the world.

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