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Witchcraft and the Constitution

TRADITIONAL AFRICAN RELIGIONS IN SOUTH AFRICAN LAW, p. 156, T.W. Bennett, eds., UTC Press, 2011

Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 248

29 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2011  

Nelson Tebbe

Cornell Law School

Date Written: September 13, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: witchcraft, South Africa, religion, constitutional law

Suggested Citation

Tebbe, Nelson, Witchcraft and the Constitution (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. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1926885

Nelson Tebbe (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
(607) 255-3506 (Phone)

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