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Ghanaian Woman Burned To Death As A “Witch”

Ghanaian Woman Burned To Death As A “Witch”

In a blatantly misogynistic and barbaric act, a 72-year-old grandmother in Ghana was burned to death earlier this month on suspicion of being a witch.

Forced To Confess, Then Set Alight

Ama Hemmeh was allegedly tortured into confessing that she was a witch, doused with kerosene and set alight. A student nurse came to Hemmeh’s rescue and sent her to Tema General Hospital, but she died within 24 hours from severe burns.

One Of The Attackers: An Evangelical Pastor

From The Guardian:

Three women and two men have been arrested. They are Nancy Nana Ama Akrofie, 46, photographer Samuel Gunney, 50, Emelia Opoku, 37, Mary Sagoe, 52, and pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe, 55.

The suspects say the death was an accident and deny committing any crime. They claim they were trying to exorcise an evil spirit from the woman by rubbing anointing oil on her but it accidentally caught fire.

Augustine Gyening, assistant police commissioner, told the Daily Graphic that Sagoe saw Hemmeh sitting in his sister’s bedroom on 20 November and raised an alarm, attracting the attention of people in the neighborhood.

Gyening added that the suspects claimed Hemmeh was a known witch and subjected her to severe torture, compelling her to confess. He said Ghunney then asked Opoku for a gallon of kerosene and with the help of his accomplices poured it over the victim and set her ablaze.

Widespread Condemnation

The incident has been widely condemned by human rights and women’s rights activists. They have also expressed outrage and disbelief that a pastor, whose responsibility it is to save lives, would actually take part in this grisly execution, supposedly in the name of God.

Belief in “black” witchcraft is still common in Ghana, and there are over 1,000 women who have been condemned as witches and are now living in camps. Who are these women? I learned from watching Ghana: The witches of Gambaga that one woman got in a fight with her brother, struck him, and that night he died. The whole family condemned her as a witch and drove her out of town.

Reminiscent Of Witch Executions 400 Years Ago

The same treatment was meted out to another woman, whose neighbor died in childbirth.  Watching this powerful video about their situation, and how they came to be called “witches,” brought to mind the situation of the so-called witches of England and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Then, too, a bad harvest, a severe frost, the death of young children, all of these events could be and were blamed on “witches,” generally old women living alone who had no one to protect them. The Witchfinder General went from town to town, calling on the locals to name anyone who they thought might be a witch. And of course, if you did not name a “witch” yourself, suspicion could fall on you.

Almost 100% Female Victims

After torture, the women so-named would often confess to witchcraft, and then they would be hanged (in England) or burned at the stake (in Scotland). Women and men both took part in the accusations, anxious to preserve their own good names, but almost 100% of the victims were female. Thousands died this way.

To read of identical superstitions, fear of women, torture and death 400 years later is truly depressing. And yet another reason to support the education of women around the world.

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Creative Commons - jronaldlee

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243 comments

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3:42PM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

It will take generations for people's attitudes to move away from superstitions and prejudice but if the people who commit these crimes are brought to justice then less and less people will have to live in fear. 'It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.'

6:11AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

It's absolutely terrible to think that this still happens today.

10:28PM PST on Jan 28, 2011

I voted "yes," but it will be long after I am ashes, that religious superstition will end. Look at the supposedly modern U.S.? We are FILLED with our own brand of religious stupidity, examples, too numerous to catalogue. It may not be witchcraft (though I'm sure it's going on somewhere), but it is religious bigotry just the same.

9:51AM PST on Dec 16, 2010

these are too sad to be true. how come people so superstitious and cruel to their own kind? make me feel sad.

1:26PM PST on Dec 15, 2010

you would have to kill off all the old stories which is going to be near impossible

7:01AM PST on Dec 13, 2010

This should be pretty cut and dry IF it is prosecuted. They shouldn't have any trouble telling the difference between kerosene or "anointing oil" all over the victim. Human rights particularly those of woman do not progress at the same rate everywhere in the world. Clearly there is still much work to be done in many parts of the world. Even to progress in the western world balances on a pin and should not be taken for granted.

8:05PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

THATS SO HORRIBLE!!!

4:14PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

horrible way to die! those criminals should be punished

2:43PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

I would say the ones doing the accusations and metting out the punishment are the demon sorcerer's and witches and warlocks!

9:58AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

We need to start respecting life and start thinking and believing in the real world instead of myths and fantasies.

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