Witchcraft and the Constitution
Brooklyn Law School
September 13, 2011
TRADITIONAL AFRICAN RELIGIONS IN SOUTH AFRICAN LAW, p. 156, T.W. Bennett, eds., UTC Press, 2011
Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 248
Witchcraft beliefs and related practices are complex social phenomena that present difficult challenges for South African lawmakers who are bound by their constitution and committed to upholding its values. In this chapter of an edited volume from the University of Cape Town Press, I focus on certain constitutional questions raised by existing policies and current proposals. In some respects, the constitutional issues are easier than might be supposed. For example, Parliament may punish violence against suspected witches, even with laws that specifically address religiously motivated murder and assault. Also, citizens may believe that occult forces exist, and that those forces are being manipulated by jealous or malevolent neighbors. More constitutionally problematic are calls for educational campaigns that would "demystify" witchcraft beliefs, or proposals for laws that would prohibit certain rituals related to witch naming. Regardless of the resolutions, these sorts of constitutional issues deserve a place in the public debate.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: witchcraft, South Africa, religion, constitutional law
Date posted: September 13, 2011
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