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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Magazine: Meet the Indian women hunted as witches

AL Jazeera

Human Rights

In remote parts of India, women branded witches are still being abused, tortured and murdered.

Baba Tamim | | Human Rights, Asia, India

Bahura Bai says: "I keep praying and asking my goddess 'what is my crime?'" [Baba Tamim]
For 40-year-old Bahura Bai it began as these things often do in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. First, a village girl she had affectionately caressed in the marketplace fell sick. Then, a year later, her brother-in-law developed an ailment.

That was all it took for some local shamans and village leaders to brand Bai a witch. The threats and abuse from her family and community began instantly.

"It got worse in November last year, when my brother-in-law and other relatives attempted to choke me," she explains from inside her mud and brick home. "They want to kill me. They believe I'm a sorcerer. In prayers, I ask my goddess every morning, 'am I really?'''
"If my sister-in-law had her way she would love to burn me alive. My nephew wants to cut me into small pieces. Only my husband supports me," she continues, before urging me to leave in case my presence angers the villagers and inspires reprisals.
"The village heads don't want the police or media meddling. They say it's an internal affair of the village," she explains.

Drooping branches and bags of rice 

Recently, family members of a 55-year-old woman beat her to death in the Bemetara district of Chhattisgarh for practicing 'black magic'. Activists say she was pulled by her hair, dragged naked through the streets and had chili powder sprinkled onto her face and genitals until she died.
Thousands of women across India have been abused, tortured and even executed after being accused of being a witch. But Chhattisgarh - where a decades-old conflict between Maoist rebels and the state has uprooted tribal societies riddled with misogynistic violence and superstition - is particularly deadly.

If my sister-in-law had her way she would love to burn me alive. My nephew wants to cut me into small pieces. Only my husband supports me
Bahura Bai
Between 2001 and 2013, there were 1,500 witch trials here and 210 associated murders.

But this is a crime that extends beyond this troubled place.

The Indian government's latest figures suggest that, between 2000 and 2012, some 2,100 people, mostly women, were killed across the country after being accused of practicing witchcraft. But rights groups suggest the number could be higher as many of the victims' families refuse to lodge an official complaint and some deaths simply go unreported.

Those cases often get addressed at village level, within illegal village courts that refuse to involve the police because doing so might undermine their authority.

In remote parts of the country, these courts and village heads are often left alone to ignore the state's Witchcraft Atrocities (Prevention) Act 2005, which criminalises the persecution of women over allegations of witchcraft. 

In Chhattisgarh's neighbouring state, Jharkhand, officials say at least 414 people were murdered between 2001 and 2013 after being accused of being witches or sorcerers. Other India states have reported similar cases.
A family member's illness, crop failure or a dry well are all common reasons for accusing a woman of witchcraft. These allegations might be made by relatives, neigbours, village leaders or local shamans, and childless, unmarried or widowed women are particularly vulnerable to them.
Once a rumour has spread, local men armed with sticks and axes will often hunt down the woman and lynch her.
It has even been known for people to employ a shaman to identify a witch responsible for the deaths of their cattle. The shaman, who supposedly uses white magic, will carve the names of local women of a certain age onto the branches of a Sal tree. The branch that droops is believed to bear the name of the witch.

Another method sees a shaman wrap up grains of rice in small bags, each with the name of a different woman written on it. The bags are then placed in a nest of white ants. The bag from which most rice is eaten is declared to be the one identifying the witch.

The death business

"Interestingly, only women are blamed for witchery," says Sita Devi, who heads a small coalition of women who have been accused of witchcraft in Mandir Hasaud.

"This discrimination starts at birth. For example, when a baby boy is born the villagers celebrate by bursting three crackers. And when a girl is born only two crackers are fired," she explains.

"There is a lot of caste consciousness and illiteracy in these villages and an ojha [a witch doctor or shaman] takes benefit of it by targeting these underprivileged women. Getting a woman killed has become a business for the fake god men and witch doctors."

Male villagers are reluctant to talk to outsiders about it, but one tells me: "Women can turn into witches to avenge someone who has done them bad in the past."

"I have seen a woman turning to a witch and flying faster than a car. Even a powerful man will shiver before such an ugly woman. The ojhas are our last resort as the educated people don't listen to us."

"They [the witches] eat human flesh and drink human blood. That's what our elders have seen," he explains.
In 1995, when ophthalmologist Dr Dinesh Mishra saw a woman beaten to death and her body dragged through the streets by an angry mob, he decided to fight this oppression.

The social activist explains: "Local belief … is that a woman can curse someone by making them sick or making them lose financially by destroying their crops. They are even held responsible for a natural calamity. This thinking creates hatred against the women and hence this crime."

He believes that a lack of medical knowledge leads people to place their trust in the self-styled shamans who trick them in order to make money.
"The problem is widespread all over Chhattisgarh," he says. "I am aware of more than 1,200 cases of witch hunting and I believe the numbers are just 10 percent [of the real total] as most of … the women are afraid to launch reports or complaints or they are sure that their voices will never be heard."
"I also show magic tricks, which the witch doctors use to get the attention of the gullible villagers. I do all this to raise awareness and to tell villagers that witch doctors are tricking you. But their ancestral belief is so strong and any change in attitude will take time to happen."

Here some women branded as witches share their stories:

Teerath Sahu – 'The truth inside me keeps me alive. But I shiver whenever I see those men roaming the village'
Lachkera village, Chhattisgarh
Teerath Sahu was paraded naked through her village and beaten until she fainted after a witch doctor accused her and two other women of being witches [Baba Tamim]
Fifty-eight-year-old Teerath Sahu remembers clearly what happened to her and two other women from her village 14 years ago. She speaks timidly about it at first, but soon begins to open up.
"That day someone knocked on my door. When I came out to see what was happening, my world changed completely."

She starts to cry as she recounts what happened next.
Teerath was asked to attend a gathering of villagers. Unbeknown to her, the villagers were consulting a witch doctor, who had identified her and two other women, Bisahin Bai and Shyama Bai, as witches.
"He had been drinking and smoking weed all along and the villagers believed his argument over our sobs and pleads," she says. "Before we could understand what was going on or plead our cases, the villagers pounced on us."

The three were beaten with bamboo sticks and iron rods, paraded naked around the village, tonsured and forced to drink urine. All of their jewellery was taken from them.

They were even forced to hold an electrical cable so that the villages could, they said, see "witches defying an electrical current and not getting electrocuted".

The other women of the village were ordered to remain inside their homes while all of this took place.

The beatings continued until all three women fainted.

"In the evening, they finally left us to die outside a Goddess Durga temple," Teerath remembers. "Our families mustered courage and brought us back to our homes. But, by then, we had lost everything, especially our honour."
Their story became headline news and a case was lodged against 20 of those involved. But two have since died and others are out on bail.

"We still shiver when we see those men roaming the village," she says.

Teerath says she and the other two victims never got justice, but their story did force the state to adopt an act banning witch hunts.

"The truth inside me is what keeps me living. And if the government and the world know the truth, why have the culprits been roaming free for the last 10 years or so?"______________________________________________________________________________________
Bahura Bai – 'I feel untouchable in my own family'
Sivani village, Chhattisgarh
Bahura Bai says he sister-in-law threatens to burn her alive, but the head of her village says it is a matter that must be resolved without outside interference [Baba Tamim]
It was August 2013, when 40-year-old Bahura Bai gently touched the head of a young girl in a local market.
"I never knew she would faint upon reaching home and that her family would blame me for casting dark spirits on the child," she says.

The girl's mother declared Bahura a witch.

"Whenever I took a bath in a village pond I felt dejected. All the women would leave the pond upon seeing me."
But Bahura's plight worsened when her brother-in-law fell sick. Family members blamed her, and she was attacked and choked.
"I feel untouchable in my own family and unworthy of living this outcaste life," she explains. "No one eats anything from my hand. My sister-in-law always threatens to burn me alive. My nephew says he will cut me into pieces. I keep praying and asking my goddess 'what is my crime?'"
 Bahura says she never tried to lodge a formal complaint.
"I wanted to," she says. "But the village head suggested that it's a family and a village matter and should be resolved within the village."


Gajra Bai – ‘I was mentally tortured and my image was tarnished’
Acholi Urla village, Chhattisgarh
Gajra Bai sought police help when her neighbours accused her of practicing witchcraft [Baba Tamim]
Forty-seven-year-old Gajra Bai remembers the night she was woken by cries from a neighbour's home. She went to see what was happening.
"I went to Virsa Bai's home to find her daughter lying on a bed," she recalls. "She had fallen sick and the medical help wasn't available."

The next day, villagers came to Gajra's house and accused her of witchcraft.

"They abused me in front of neighbours and called me a witch and blamed me for performing witchcraft on the girl. I kept pleading my innocence but it fell on deaf ears; they were not ready to listen."

Fortunately for Gajra, her family supported her. She decided to seek help from the police.

"I was mentally tortured and my image was getting tarnished so I had to take action," she says. "Thank God my family was supportive."

"In July 2010, police detained several villagers and charged them under the Witchcraft Prevention Act."

But, as in so many of these cases, they were later released on bail.


Jaam Bai – 'Here a woman has only to listen and not to act'
Sivani village, Chhattisgarh
Jaam Bai was beaten and threatened by villagers after a neighbour's son died [Baba Tamim]
Jaam Bai's ordeal began 10 years ago, when the son of a neighbour fell sick.
"The five-year-old boy was introduced to an ojha [witch doctor] who suggested that a woman in the neighbourhood had cast evil magic on him," she explains.

"Since I live next door, the family blamed me."

The witch doctor couldn't cure the boy so he was taken to a doctor, where it was established that he was in the last stages of jaundice. He died before his family could take him to the nearest city for treatment. 

The news of his death spread through the village and Jaam went to offer her condolences to his family. But, she says, they "hurled abuse at me and branded me a witch who needed to be eliminated from the village".
Sensing danger, she left her neighbour's home.
When other villagers again assembled at the deceased boy's home, Jaam believed it was an opportunity to try to repair relations. She went again to pay her respects.
"But the moment I stepped inside their house, they locked the door and started beating me up," she says.

"They kept calling me a witch. They tore my clothes until my husband came and saved me."

Afraid that they would kill her, Jaam wanted to seek police help. But her husband refused to let her, saying that it would "bring more shame to the family".

So the threats and intimidation continued.

Then some rights activists working in the region heard her story and sought government action on Jaam's behalf. The police detained the men who had beaten and threatened her.

"It was thanks to my friends," she says. "It wouldn't have been possible without them considering the conservative village I come from. Here a woman has only to listen and not to act on her own."


Kuwariya Bai – 'How can I forget what they did to me?'
Chota Bhavani Nagar, Chhattisgarh
Kuwariya Bai was branded a witch after neighbours heard her swearing about her son [Baba Tamim]
Thirty-nine-year-old Kuwariya Bai's nightmare began three years ago, when her neighbours heard her swearing about her son over a family matter.

"That was enough for them to label me a witch," she says, stammering over the words.
"I knew what would happen if the word spread in my locality. So I kept quiet and didn't let it affect me. But it kept haunting me," she remembers.  
Kuwariya's fears came to fruition in April 2014, when she heard her neighbour hammering a nail into the wall between their two houses.
"They hammered the wall so hard that all the dishes in the kitchen fell down," she says.

When Kuwariya objected, she says: "They [the men from the neighbouring house] suddenly came out with sticks and started beating me mercilessly."

The marks from the beating still scar her face.

She says the villagers called her a witch and said "we will see who will save you today".

The beating was so violent that she fainted and remained unconscious for hours.

Her husband filed a police complaint and all of those who attacked her were arrested.

"Some of them were released soon, but one among them is still behind bars," she says, then adds: "How can I forget what they did to me and how they humiliated me by calling me a witch? But I have a big heart and I feel like forgiving them given the main culprit has died."

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This article originally appeared in the February issue of the Al Jazeera Magazine. Download the magazine for iPads and iPhones here and for Android devices here

Friday, August 7, 2015

Woman Publicly Raped in Gas Station Parking Lot by Cops Because they “Smelled Weed”

The Free Thought Project

Woman-Publicly-Sodomized-at-a-Gas-Station-by-Cops-Because-they-Smelled-Weed Houston, TX — Charnesia Corley was on her way to the store to get medicine for her sick mother last June when she was detained by police for allegedly running a stop sign. Within minutes, this routine traffic stop turned into a waking nightmare.

According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, the deputy who pulled Corley over asked her to step out of the vehicle after “smelling what he believed to be marijuana.”
However, during a search of Corley’s vehicle, without her consent, no illegal plants were found. But this sadistic cop wasn’t done just yet. He knew deep down that this woman’s story about getting medicine for her mother was a lie, and she must have been smuggling this evil plant inside her body somewhere. The deputy then handcuffed Corley and placed her into the back of his cruiser.
Being a male, the deputy felt that it would be in poor taste to penetrate this woman’s bodily orifices himself, so he called a female deputy over to conduct the public roadside rape in a politically correct fashion.
Upon arriving, the female deputy ordered the handcuffed woman out of the car and into the parking lot.
“She tells me to pull my pants down. I said, ‘Ma’am, I don’t have any underwear on.’ She says, ‘Well, that doesn’t matter. Pull your pants down,'” Corley said.
Because Corley didn’t immediately prostrate herself to be vaginally raped by a peace officer’s appendages in search of an illegal plant, the deputy charged her with resisting arrest.
In spite of her verbal protests, Corley was then stripped down in public and forcefully penetrated by this public servant — in the best interests of society, no doubt.
“I bend over and she proceeds to try to force her hand inside of me. I tell her, ‘Ma’am, No. You cannot do this,'” Corley explained.
Corley maintains that at no time did she ever consent to be raped by deputies.
According to Harris County Sheriff’s spokesperson, Thomas Gilleland, this stop was justified and the department did everything by the book. According to deputies, the rapist cops recovered .02 ounces of a plant which they consider to be evil.

Even if Corley had been carrying hundreds of pounds of marijuana, the act of penetrating her vaginally is horrifically unjustified and immoral. Corley had caused harm to no one. She was merely driving to get medicine for her mother when she was detained and held under the threat of death and raped by agents of the state who claim to protect the citizens.
Who is “served” by the actions of these officers? Who exactly are the police “protecting” by publicly humiliating and sexually assaulting this poor woman in a gas station parking lot?
Corley has since retained an attorney who will undoubtedly win her a settlement that will come out of the pockets of taxpayers.
“It’s undeniable that the search is unconstitutional,” said Sam Cammack, Corley’s attorney. However, it is far worse than “unconstitutional.” It is evil. It is atrocious. It is depraved.
The vileness of the state’s wicked and immoral war on drugs is rearing it repugnant face. When will the rest of society see that face and wake up to this atrocity? When will the people say “enough is enough,” and that finger raping innocent people on the roadside in search of a plant that’s legal in 5 states is no longer welcome in our culture?
Please share this article with your friends and family to help wake them up to this very real American Horror Story.
Think this is an isolated incident? Think again. Earlier this year we reported on the story of Jennifer Stelly, who is just a few miles down the road from Charnesia Corley. When Stelly and her boyfriend were returning from a visit to the beach, they were stopped by four officers who claimed that her boyfriend “smelled like weed.”
Within minutes, Stelly was in handcuffs and found herself thrown up against the police cruiser with cop fingers inside her body. The evil and rapacious actions of these Texas cops were caught entirely on their dashcam.  

Update: In an effort of transparency, we originally reported that Charnesia Corley was “sodomized,” however, it was not clear whether or not police searched her anally. After further research, it appears that police only violated her vaginally. The title of the article has been changed to reflect the error in semantics.
Also, a previous version of this article did not mention the fact that police claim to have found a small amount of marijuana. The article has been changed to reflect that fact as well.


Kenya bans hiring, sending of domestic workers to Jordan

Haki Afrika Rapid Response Officer Francis Auma
Haki Afrika Rapid Response Officer Francis Auma addresses reporters in Mombasa on May 13, 2015 as Ms Mwanamisi Ali sobs over her daughter Fatuma Ali's suffering in the hands of her employers in Jordan. The government has banned Jordan from recruiting domestic workers in Kenya. FILE PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 
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The government has banned recruiting and sending domestic workers to Jordan to stem rising cases of mistreatment of Kenyans in the Middle East country.
Officials of the Recruiting Agents Association of Jordan on Thursday told a House committee that they had been stopped from employing Kenyans following a diplomatic spat between Nairobi and Amman.
The officials asked the National Assembly's Committee on Labour and Social Welfare to push the government to reconsider its decision.
“We have seen a letter from the Ministry of Labour, which stopped the recruitment. The letter was not written in any diplomatic language. It was not a good letter,” the association's general-secretary, Rami Asrawi, told the committee, chaired by Matungu MP David Were, at Parliament in Nairobi.
Washington Oloo, the director of Diaspora Services at the Foreign Affairs ministry, confirmed the ban, saying it was put in place last October.
“It is still in place today. We are still developing a bilateral agreement with Jordan. We want to have rules and procedures for the recruitment of domestic workers,” Mr Oloo told by phone.
MPs questioned Mr Asrawi and his team on the abuses and distress calls, saying they were still being reported to date.
“We are receiving many distress calls from those already in Jordan. I know a girl who said she was being mistreated and wanted to come back home. Do not make the situation in Jordan look so good,” said Kipipiri MP Samuel Gichigi.
However, Mr Asrawi said the number of reported cases of abuse was small and should not have led to a total ban on the importation of labour from Kenya.