Five-year jail term for ‘witchcraft’ accusation

Kathmandu, November 5

The Criminal Code Bill recently passed by the Parliament stipulates stringent action against those involved in the inhuman treatment of a man or a woman by accusing him or her of practicing ‘witchcraft’.

According to Section 168 of the bill, the perpetrator of such an act shall liable to a jail sentence of up to five years, along with a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

“If any person working in government office commits such act, he/she shall be handed an additional three-month jail term in addition to the punishment as prescribed by this law,” it states.

As per the Muluki Ain (Civil Code), anyone accused of torturing women for ‘practicing witchcraft’ was liable to a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 only.

But the new law envisages stringent punishment for the perpetrators as women continue to be tortured physically and mentally on charges of practicing ‘witchcraft’. It is expected that the new law would discourage such incidents, the bill says.

In case the perpetrator fails to pay compensation to the victim on grounds of his/her poor financial status, the government will make necessary arrangements for relief to the victim through Gender Violence Prevention Fund.

If the victim is ostracised from his/her residence or society and he/she is accused of being a witch and practicing black magic or is meted out physical or mental torture, such acts shall be considered an offence under this law. Similarly, the bill states that slandering the family members of the victim is also a criminal offence.

The bill has also outlawed Chhaupadi, an ancient Hindu practice that forces women to leave their homes and live in sheds during menstruation.

“If any woman is banished from home or is discriminated during menstruation, a jail sentence of three months shall be handed on the perpetrators. A complaint against such incident will have to be lodged within six months.