Witchcraft Accusations as Gendered Persecution in Refugee Law

(2018) Social and Legal Studies

25 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2018

See all articles by Sara Dehm

Sara Dehm

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

Jenni Millbank

University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 24, 2018

Abstract

Witchcraft-related violence (WRV), in particular directed towards women and children, has become a source of increasing concern for human rights organisations in the current century. Yet for those fleeing WRV this heightened attention has not translated across into refugee status. This research examines how claims of WRV were addressed in all available asylum decisions in English, drawn from five jurisdictions. We argue that WRV is a manifestation of gender-related harm; one which exposes major failings in the application of refugee jurisprudence. Inattention to the religious and organisational elements of witchcraft practices, combined with gender insensitivity in analysis, meant that claims were frequently re-configured by decision-makers as personal grudges, or family or community disputes, such that they were not cognisable harms within the terms of the Refugee Convention; or they were simply disbelieved as far-fetched. The success rate of claims was low, compared to available averages, and, when successful, claims were universally accepted on some basis other than the witchcraft element of the case. This article focuses in particular upon cases where the applicant feared harm as an accused witch, while a second related article addresses those fearing persecution from witches or through the medium of witchcraft.

Keywords: Gender related persecution; gendered violence; refugee law; witchcraft; religious persecution; refugee status determination

JEL Classification: K31, K44

Suggested Citation

Dehm, Sara and Millbank, Jenni, Witchcraft Accusations as Gendered Persecution in Refugee Law (July 24, 2018). (2018) Social and Legal Studies. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3219574

Sara Dehm

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney
Australia

Jenni Millbank (Contact Author)

University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )

Australia

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