Adjudicating Fear of Witchcraft Claims in Refugee Law
(2018) Journal of Law and Society
32 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2018
Date Written: July 24, 2018
This research examines claims of witchcraft related violence (WRV) in asylum decisions. In refugee applications involving WRV those accused of witchcraft are largely women, and those fearing witchcraft are more often men. This is one of two interrelated articles reporting on cases where claimants feared harm from witchcraft or occult practices. We argue that WRV is a manifestation of gender-related harm, one which exposes major failings in the application of refugee jurisprudence. Systemic inattention to the meaning and application of the Convention ground of Religion, combined with gender insensitivity in analysis, meant that claims were frequently re-configured by decision-makers as personal grudges. The fear of witchcraft cases pose an acute ontological challenge to refugee status determination, as the claimed harm falls outside of what is understood to be objective, verifiable, or Convention-related. Male applicants struggled to make their claims comprehensible as a result of the feminised and ‘irrational’ characterization of witchcraft fears and beliefs.
Keywords: [comma separated]: gender related persecution; gendered violence; witchcraft; refugee law; religious persecution; particular social group
JEL Classification: k33, k41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation