To prove its commitment in protecting lives and livelihoods, the NPP government, currently under the able leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has initiated several social protection programmes to ensure that women, children and the elderly are particularly insured from various hazards and drudgery.
The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) are perfect examples of such initiatives; and their current viability and vibrancy offer clear indications of the extent of the government’s commitment to the wellbeing of the vulnerable.
This is the reason why another initiative to construct safe heavens, particularly, for elderly folks, most of them women who have unfortunately been branded by a section of our own community heads as witches, may appear commendable, even though that is not the best of a solution to the menace.
Again, unfortunately, those leading in the assault on the poor segment of our population are themselves women and elderly people who are expected to be role models of virtue and generosity.
That is why a special initiative to diminish the venom regarding this inhumane phenomenon ought to be supported and highlighted in sounding notice against this primitive and evil practice.
In the last couple of years, many elderly women, particularly in the northern part of the country, have been threatened to flee their communities into other safer places on the mere suspicion of being witches, even though proof of that has been non-existent in practical terms.
In the last two incidents, the sorry picture of the lynching which inundated social media brought to the fore the need to ruthlessly curb this act of barbarism in which some chiefs and elderly women have been caught.
LEAP and legislation
According to the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the government, in its effort to make a firm statement regarding its intention to clamp down on and eliminate the scourge, will not only improve existing camps for such victims, but also add to the existing ones in providing maximum protection for them.
Additionally she hinted about the government putting in place legislation that will curb the issue of lynching of alleged witches, which is rapidly gaining notoriety in some parts of the country.
Apart from enrolling the poor women onto the LEAP programme to give them an enhanced quality of life in terms of feeding, accommodation, recreation and living allowances, the Minister added that government is going to enact legislation to arrest the situation.
While we commend the government for the initiative, as it continues to sound notice of its intention to deal ruthlessly with the perpetrators, we believe there are enough laws in this country that should deter citizens from entering someone’s home to inflict pain on him or her because he believes that person is a witch.
If we want the laws to bite, we can just focus on unlawful entry, battery, assault and homicide in all its forms and degrees to deter holier-than-thou community chiefs, religious and traditional bigots, as well as ‘professional witch-hunters’, from their barbaric intentions.
We may also put in place advocacy programmes that target our traditional and religious leaders in leading the fight against this form of discrimination and stigmatisation in which any elderly person may be a victim any day.