These ‘witches’ are singled out usually by men that wield spiritual power in the community: Christian pastors in Nigeria, or elder tribal councilmen in Papua. The sentence is banishment, torture or death. In Nigeria, it is usually parents or community ‘vigilantes’ that enact the penalties, while in Papua there are organized groups of ‘witch hunters’ whose only purpose is to mete out the punishment.
Many witch children suffer incredible abuse, from beatings, starvations, burnings by caustic soda or torturing by nails driven in their head. Others are never found, being killed in forests or buried alive. It is usually parents who perpetrate these abuses, prompted by the preachers. In Guinea, the ‘witches’ – usually old women with no siblings to protect them – are usually tortured into confessing their ‘deed’ and then killed.
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