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Social Justice | 

Understanding Witch Hunting: Culture, Patriarchy, and Capitalism

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CSD’s work with RLS aims to understand social beliefs that underlie witch violence and explore the specific directions of change in these belief systems at the nexus of patriarchy, culture and capitalist trajectories.The work intends to explore social beliefs and cultural practices as well as economic concerns that give rise to witch violence; and yet, at the same time, create social and legal spaces for human rights-based discourses questioning the practice of witch hunts. It actively engages voices from the ground that represent indigenous women and allies who have stood up to these practices and called for change from within the North East of India.

From a global social rights perspective, the persecution of women as witches has a number of consequences for women’s agency in the region. First, in areas where this is widespread, women are inhibited from exercising their agency in economic or other spheres for fear of being accused of being a witch. Women who do economically better, for instance, wages from migration, are forced to hide their savings and not invest their savings locally for fear of eliciting the envy of others, who may be resentful and suspicious of newly acquired assets, good harvests, or livestock. Third, there is a general economic loss through destruction of property. Fourth, women are not able to assert their rights to land and other property, as was the case in traditional societies. Fifth, there are substantial costs of treatment associated with injuries due to the violence against women.

However, not all accusations end in the continued persecution of accused women. There have been examples of resistance by the accused and their supporters, whether through indigenous solidarity and activism networks, NGOs or with the help of family members. This study proposes to examine specific social belief systems within which witch violence, ritual attacks and fear based isolation operate. It seeks to strengthen resistance from within and identify mechanisms, support systems and policies to help overcome this form

About Council for Social Development

Council for Social Development is a leading research and advocacy institution that puts equality and justice at the core of social development. It was established in 1962 under the leadership of Dr C.D. Deshmukh and Dr Durgabai Deshmukh.

CSD has made its mark as a leading social science research institution working in the area of social development with a focus on education, health and nutrition, rural development, poverty, gender and social discrimination and deprivation, especially with reference to the marginalised communities, for nearly 50 years. CSD has been bringing out a quarterly journal, Social Change, which focuses on empirically grounded, analytical papers, essays and policy discussions.

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