Ghana Bans Killing of Children

The African nation is putting an end to the ritual sacrifice of babies possessed by evil spirits.
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(PHOTO: NOVA3WEB/FLICKR)

(PHOTO: NOVA3WEB/FLICKR)

This is real. Well, now it's not real, I guess. No longer will children born with disabilities be killed in order to free a village from evil.

In Ghana's northern Kasena-Nankana region, babies born with disabilities—and sometimes even babies born at the same time from some misfortune that befell their family—were considered "spirit children," as in "possessed by evil spirits." To fix that, "concoction men" would make the babies drink poison. And then they would die.

From the BBC:

Mr. Ayine, from the campaign group Afrikids, said he was "saddened that in today's era, a child could lose its life because of such a barbaric practice."

He noted that in rural areas where such beliefs are more common, women often give birth without ever seeing a midwife, let alone having a pre-natal scan. As a result, childbirth leads to complications more often than elsewhere, he said.

He also said that even before the official ban, there had been no recorded case of the killing of "spirit children" in the area for the past three years.

He put this down to awareness campaigns, as well as improved access to education that meant more people understood that physical disabilities had a medical explanation.

The "concoction men" will not lost their jobs; their jobs will just no longer require them to poison newborns. They'll now be working with disabled children to promote their rights, which is like asking a breathalyzer to become one of those hats you can drink beer out of—but it's something, sure.

The majority of Ghanaians are Christian (about 70 percent), while another 15 percent practice Islam. The rest mostly practice traditional religions—some that sacrifice babies, some that don't—or they just don't practice at all. So, it's not like this is happening everywhere, and progress with weird, embedded, religious traditions that have deep ties to family structures and history—even if it includes, you know, killing family members—is not a simple thing to come by, even if it seems like it should be.

Next step: closing the six witch camps across the country where women, who may or may not be witches, have been exiled.

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