Friday, January 28

Society. “Witch” hunts: why they are still relevant

For almost two centuries, between 1563 and 1736, around 4,000 people were tried for witchcraft in Scotland, and two-thirds were executed and burned. 84% of them were women.

Today, almost three centuries after the end of this “witch” hunt and the repeal of the “Witchcraft Act” – the series of laws that regulated witchcraft and imposed punishments for its practice – activists from the Witches collective of Scotland are in the process of rehabilitating these unjustly hunted “witches”.

With the support of Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a law proposed by feminist activists to pardon the victims was passed by the Scottish Parliament. Claire Mitchell, lawyer and member of the Witches of Scotland group, calls for an apology and a national monument for them. “Per capita, between the 16th and 18th centuries, we [l’Écosse] executed five times as many people as elsewhere in Europe, ”she said in the columns of Sunday Times. The law, which aims to pardon witches and wizards condemned at that time, could serve as an example for other countries.

The witch hunt, a still current problem

Hundreds of years later, one might think the witch hunt has been relegated to the dustbin of history. It is not: in the 21st century, it is still practiced in sub-Saharan Africa, India and Papua New Guinea. Some legal systems officially sanction so-called witchcraft acts, as reported National Geographic. Saudi Arabia thus made it a crime punishable by death and created an anti-witchcraft unit in 2009 within the national religious police department. And in Ghana, there are witch camps.

The common denominator between these regions is a religious dimension that is very present in the daily life of populations and societies where women are not equal to men. According to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), several thousand people accused of witchcraft are murdered each year, while others are victims of abuse or expelled from their village, can we read in the review Books.

The “witches” rehabilitated in the West

In the West, witches have not gone away, but they are now seen as positive. Today, many feminists are rehabilitating this character who inspired hatred. In the late 1960s, a first radical group of feminist witches, the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy From Hell (WITCH), was born in New York. Since 2015, the WITCHs have often been present in anti-Trump rallies. They also take part in the Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrate against white supremacism and for the right to abortion.

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The American WITCHs in turn inspired the French collective Witch Bloc, born in France in 2017. Always dressed in witches’ clothes, these “feminist, radical and angry” activists, parading anonymously and in inclusive non-mixed gender during demonstrations politicians ”, first took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate against the reform of the Labor Code, carrying a banner proclaiming“ Macron in the cauldron ”. The collective organizes both events and rituals.

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