Ending Witch-Hunts in India with Dr. Samantha Spence and Amit Anand – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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Today we talk about the complexities of witch hunting across India with advocates Dr. Samantha Spence and Dr. Amit Anand from the organization, The International Network Against Accusations of Witchcraft and Associated Harmful Practices. This conversation highlights how intersectional factors such as legislation, culture, religion, superstition, gender, and status tie into the manifestation of witchcraft fear and resultant violence in unique communities. What solutions can work on the ground?
We consider: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?
[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. [00:00:13] Josh Hutchinson: I'm Josh Hutchinson. [00:00:15] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. Today's guests, Dr. Samantha Spence and Dr. Amit Anand, are human rights advocates and will be speaking to us primarily about the witch hunting situation in India. [00:00:29] Josh Hutchinson: They represent the organization, the International Network Against Accusations of Witchcraft and Associated Harmful Practices. Could you please introduce yourselves? [00:00:41] Amit Anand: I am Dr. Amit Anand. I am currently working as a lecturer in law at the School of Legal Studies, REVA University, Bangalore, India. I Recently graduated with a PhD in law from Lancaster University, UK. The topic of my research was violence against women in India, where I was focusing on the practice of witchcraft, honor killing, and temple prostitution. I also hold an LLM in Human Rights Law from the University of Reading, UK and my research interests, they lie in the area of international human rights law, particularly on gender based violence and caste based discrimination in India. [00:01:20] Samantha Spence: My name is Dr. Samantha Spence. I am the course director for postgraduate studies in law at Staffordshire University in the UK. I have been working on this issue for over 10 years now. My research is predominantly around harmful practices in women. And my PhD I did at Lancaster University, where I met Amit, was on witchcraft accusations and persecutions as a marginalization mechanism of women. So the predominant focus of my research is international human rights and women's rights and marginalized communities. [00:01:59] Josh Hutchinson: And you're both part of very important organizations, international NGOs that are working to address the situation of witchcraft and sorcery accusation related violence. . . [00:02:16] Samantha Spence: So the International Network came about from essentially there was a group of us that started this work many years ago. It was started originally by I. K., so Ikponwosa Ero, who was the previous mandate holder for albinism at the U.N. and Charlotte Baker at Lancaster and Gary Foxcroft who had WHRIN, which was the Witchcraft and Human Rights organization. Being at Lancaster, I jumped in due to similar research areas. And then the International Network is basically the group of people who worked on this issue from the start and have continued on this journey. So I'm the co director of the International Network with Miranda Forsyth, who I believe has been interviewed also. And then we have a variety of international advisory board members, of which Amit is one. [00:03:08] Sarah Jack: What do listeners need to know about the witch hunting situation in India? [00:03:14] Amit Anand: Okay so the witch hunting situation in India or witchcraft accusations, it's a very complex phenomenon here in India. We can't really understand it from one perspective, but mostly overall what I found in my research was that it's very gender-specific. So most of the victims are women, and these are women who are already marginalized because of their status in society. And this again depends on several factors. So status in society is not just about rich or poor, but then there are different social markers on which people are divided here in India. It could be religion, it could be caste. So there are these intersecting factors, but like I said, it's very gender-specific. And because India is mostly set to be a patriarchal society, so then there is also this male dominance and subordination of women just to safeguard male supremacy. So it's a very complex issue, and that's why it's still something that's not clearly talked about. People have though, written about this but very, very briefly. And there is very less literature or very less dialogue from a legal perspective. Nothing much on the human rights violations front. Because the society is complex and then again, talking about gender-based violence or witchcraft accusation or witch-hunting, which is a part of that. It makes it all the more complex, so there are these different factors that we really need to take into consideration to understand why this practice still happens in 21st century India, despite there being several legislations in place and despite the law saying that everyone's rights should be protected, there are these different factors which are very complex but we do need to consider all of them and if you want to understand why this happens. [00:05:11] Samantha Spence: For me, I find, I agree with what Amit has said, and I think the problem is because this belief in witchcraft, it encompasses these different areas, so religion and culture and superstition, and underlying that is these concepts of fear and evil. And if you put all these together, this is problematic, because people don't want to challenge any of these. And superstition is rife in India, and it's this misconception that specific behavior can actually influence events, but they're unrelated. Because what it does as superstition is it creates this link between an action and an outcome, but the reality is that there's no causality there. And this culmination of superstition and evil and fear is problematic, because it regulates society. People are afraid to challenge it, and it regulates through fear. So it provides this kind of discourse, let's just say, as to, it explains that why things are happening, but it doesn't actually give the answers. But the fear itself is enough for people not to challenge it. And as Amit said, in India, there's a patriarchal society and women particularly are completely unable to challenge it and they become the victims and the intersectionality there of the caste system and all these other factors just perpetuates this kind of narrative of witchcraft, because it's prevalent, and it's foolproof. How do you counteract this discourse? You can't. Yeah it's so complex, different manifestations in different places, but for me that, there's still the underlying cause there is this fear. [00:06:47] Josh Hutchinson: There are many different states in India, many different cultures. How do the witchcraft beliefs, how do they differ across those cultures? [00:07:00] Amit Anand: I guess there are certain things that tie them together, but in practice is what they differ. So in terms of accusations, how that happens, to whom it happens, what happens after the accusations, that's something that differs in nature. The kind of violence that is inflicted, that could differ, but what ties them together, like Sam said, is superstitious beliefs and that's just the starting point. And you know that places where this happens, people are not educated very poor literacy rates. So these superstitious beliefs, which are often strengthened by folklore and myths, they allow malicious intent to spread rapidly within these communities and then create a sense of fear, which is then used by a certain group of people who hold some kind of power and then want to dominate and control women. And then comes the accusation and which follows violence. Superstitious beliefs, fear of evil eye, these are things that you will find are common. How they are understood might differ. When a woman is accused of being a witch, that might differ. How the violence is conducted, that might differ. But there are a few things which tie all of this together, but it's very difficult to pinpoint what those factors are because all these separate places, they tend to believe in things differently and how they relate with the nature or how much fear or superstition actually works in favor of then prolonging witchcraft accusation, that might differ. So it's very, what's the source of all of this? Is it religion? Is it something else? Is religion used as a tool to then perhaps see that our beliefs are right, so it's very difficult to pinpoint when it has started, how it has started but yeah it, they are different in different places, but then if you see it all in one place, you will realize that there are similarities and that's why the law can, in some sense, work on the ground, but then again, these social realities have to be taken into account. [00:09:05] Josh Hutchinson: Then is there a need for different approaches in different places? [00:09:12] Amit Anand: Yes, definitely. I would say that, for instance, the place that I come from, that's the state of Jharkhand, and that tops the list of witchcraft accusations in the entire country. The government collects records with respect to witchcraft accusations and mostly accusations resulting in violence and in the death of the victims, which are mostly women. So my state has a lot of killings over the last 10 years. So if you take the data says that from 2010 to 2021, there are close to 1500 people who died in my state alone. So that's a huge that's a very big data and that's very disturbing. But in, so how my state sees it, the literacy rate isn't high in my home state, but despite all of that, we do have a state based legislation, so it's a legislation that doesn't cover the entire country but only restricted to my state, but the legislation, it's very weak in nature. In terms of punishment that it gives, it's just three months of imprisonment, even if you are accused of killing a woman who was accused of being a witch. So if you have accused her and the violence happens and she is dead, then the maximum punishment that you get is just three months of imprisonment. So obviously, the law hasn't really looked at the social reality or what it can actually do in terms of practice but my state essentially what it's focusing on and this is, again, replicated in other parts of the country, as well, is about social awareness. So they are conducting camps, trying to educate people, and this is where in, nGOs come in picture. The state government has joined hands with local NGOs and is trying to educate people in villages. It's actually reaching out to survivors of witchcraft accusations, because they know what has happened to them. And if they come out and speak to other people, then whatever it is that they say, their story will have more impact than the government telling people not to do it. So they have joined hands with survivors, tried to locate them, tried to bring them in the forefront, and then take these people out again in the villages and then try to explain to people that whatever it is that you believe is completely against the law and then how you believe that how it manifests in violence, then that's, again, a very huge violation of the right of the victim. But this is a good way of doing it, but the government, again, is slow. If there are budget cuts, it's not a priority. Again there was a very big news that the government plans to do it. They actually started doing it, but then they stopped midway, because they said we don't have funds, there are other problems that we need to focus on. Other states tried to replicate this, but they haven't really moved far ahead. It's a problem. It's a very big problem. They do acknowledge, but then there isn't that will to actually do something about it. So that's why most NGOs on the ground are even struggling to, to get all these separate state governments on board together and then force the center to pass a national law. Very many challenges in different parts of the country. [00:12:17] Sarah Jack: Yeah. I can see what a challenge it would be. You have two facets. You have the need for the people in society to understand that the violence is not okay, and you have your victims the survivors with the message there. And then you have... your message to the leadership that, to change that mindset and to find a drive for collaboration across the states. That's a lot. That's a big mission. [00:12:49] Samantha Spence: Yeah, I think the law doesn't work in isolation. As lawyers, we'll both say, laws, unfortunately, don't work all the time. They still don't work in the UK, for example. We still, people still murder people. This is the reality of life. But because it's so complex, it's not a priority. And what you're dealing with is these issues of the intertwining. Is it religious? Is it cultural? What's it driven by? And people don't want to challenge that. And as a government, why would you? You want to maintain the status quo and keep the people happy. And this is where the problem lies. And also that people aren't educated on the laws, and the laws then aren't, they could be there, but then they're not implemented because there's corruption. And like I say, if you deeply, if you believe something so deeply and passionately, then a law is not going to change that. It's this kind of social awareness, like Amit says, in these campaigns, and there's some fantastic people, Dr. Dinesh Mishra, for example, he has an awareness of superstition, and he's an ophthalmologist by trade, so he's a scientific doctor, and he goes around to try and disprove some of these theories. But again, you can't, it's not something that will change overnight, and you need to empower people, but it's also very hard to empower people in a society where that's not the done thing. Even internationally, as well, we actually held a recent event at the UN, and we asked mandate holders there and a lot of them weren't aware. We have the resolution through, but they still weren't aware. And when you discuss it, "oh yeah. That's just a cultural thing." But the reality is okay, but people are dying. People are suffering here. And this is why it's so complex. People just don't want to challenge this narrative. [00:14:33] Amit Anand: I just wanted to add a minor point. So I was reading up about uh, witchcraft and what's the latest that is happening in India. So I simply found out that in the month of May, there's an article that was written in the New York Times, which was focusing on witchcraft situations in India. And it largely focused on the problem of acknowledgement, that we need to understand that yes, it happens, witchcraft accusations, witch hunting, killing in the name of witchcraft accusation does happen, but it mostly happens in places that are remote, people are not very literate. They don't know about the laws. But we have to keep in mind that a society like India, even in educated classes or people that are well off or in metropolitan cities, people do believe in such things. They might not agree with the killing, but there are things if you ask them that, is there evil eye existence, they would say yes, they would be mindful that there is magic or superstition, some form of superstition exists and almost every Indian does believe in some sort of superstition. It might not be to the extent of killing someone, but they do relate to these things, sorcery, supernatural entities, and they do different things to, to safeguard their personal interests. But then you look at these communities where all these killings happen, and their belief system is tied very heavily with how they associate themselves with nature. And then religion also has a very big role to play in that. And it's very difficult to disassociate these two things. So religion on one side and your belief system, which is again very complex and what actually goes into it, it's very difficult to experience. So is religion then only used as a tool to then spend on the belief system or the belief system? Is it standing on its own? The educated class on one side, when it listens or when it hears about such killings, it automatically brushes all of this away, saying that this is something wrong, it's killing people in the name of witchcraft or witchcraft accusations is wrong, but then they don't do anything to stop it because they also in some ways play some sort of a role in then advancing superstition or because they can't then detach themselves from that very fact because their belief system, their religion also teaches them something about good people, inherently good people, inherently bad people. There is good and then there is evil, and mostly evil is associated with with women. And because they're things are said they have a very weak nature from the very beginning, so they are, they could be attracted to evil easily, and if that happens, then the men need to jump in and safeguard the interests of society, and one way of doing that is by removing these women from the picture, and you could kill them, and then that still would be right, because it's, the good is winning over the bad, and it's how that could be wrong in any sense, so it's It's a very complex thing, like how Sam also said that if we are trying to find solutions, we are at a stage when we don't even know what the right questions are to which we are trying to find answers to. So there are a lot, many questions, which we haven't even thought of which might play a very big role in actually moving forward with solutions that could that could really work on the ground. So there are these. [00:17:58] Sarah Jack: It appears that the marginalization is something that many women in the country in different states are really trying to rise above and then you've got this constant branding of women as evil. That's such a complex thing. [00:18:20] Samantha Spence: Complex, it's intersectional, because, let's take India, so you've got women, you've got the caste system, you've got patriarchy, you've got culture, you've got belief, superstition, religion, throw it all together, and you've got a mix that no one wants to tackle, and unfortunately in society, women are the other. They always have been, and we fight and fight, and we're still fighting. So imagine, and that's in places where we think we are quite modernized and democratic. We're still fighting. And what witchcraft does is it gives people answers, as Amit was saying, then it gives people answers to the things that they don't have an answer for. Something bad happens, then we always want an answer. Why? Why has it happened to me? Why has it happened to them? And what it does, it provides the cause, because it would say, it's distinguishing between the how and the why, and we know sometimes that it's just bad luck. But actually, they're looking for someone to blame, and how does that work? Someone's daughter died from a disease? Oh, she's killed them. She looked at them a certain way, and you think, wow, really? But yeah it's really, people genuinely believe, and it's how, it's not to say that people can't believe, that's not. It's how you manage those beliefs. It's how it's manifested, and it's that next step into, you might believe that something's happened, but then actually going and accusing somebody that is completely innocent in mob violence, which is quite often. Again, and even the stronger women would say, Oh, she's not a witch. Oh she must be a witch as well. And it's foolproof. There's a discourse, and that's why it's used, but it's used to, um, manipulate, it's used to get answers, it's used to deal with conflict, so when it's the election time, it's rife, everybody's accusing everybody else, and these are politicians, but it's also, for me, used to deal with difference. If someone's a little bit different, and we're not quite sure how to understand that, then there must be something wrong. Mental health, for example, elderly people with Alzheimer's, widows, or you want to get rid of someone. It's a perfect example of what we'll do is we'll do this. And my question has always been, and I still don't know the answer to this and I think, I always discuss, do people actually deeply believe the people that propagate, say the witch doctors or shamans, whatever you want to call them. And they can say, this can cure whatever. Do they actually believe that? And I don't know the answer to that, because I would say no, it's a manipulation, because what we have now is I, this term spiritual entrepreneurs, I think Jean LaFontaine said many, many years ago, people now manipulate it to make money. And this is what we've seen for persons with albinism in Africa, this kind of, as I. K. said, menu of, oh what you need to do is go and get the arm of such a person and this, and that will cure whatever you've come, and they're paying money for it, and we see it here with people are paying for their children to be exorcised from the devil when maybe they've just wet the bed, or they've got some issues there that are logically explained, and it's a manipulation, and that manipulation is dangerous. And I think this is what takes it to the next level. So you've got an understanding here of where people genuinely are looking for answers to questions, but then it goes a step further and it becomes manipulating. So I know we can get something out of this. We can get land, we can get money, and that's where it becomes even more dangerous. And I don't know how you stop that. Because it's everywhere. That seems to be a similarity I've found globally now. It's become monetarized as such. And when money's involved, what do you do? [00:22:03] Amit Anand: I just want to add two points to what Sam just said. One thing was, which I was speaking about earlier, which was about how the educated class in India also believes in some form of superstition. In my research, I did find that you with respect to the existence of the evil eye, there are different notions attached to it but that's in some ways common with with the most with all the educated classes regardless of which part of the country they are, they believe in certain things, so there are things like witches are often accused of casting the evil eye, and then the term witches, which is, again, only associated with women and witch hunters or witch doctors are always men is again a very different debate. So it's said that these women, they cast the evil eye mostly on children and men. And it is said that children who are very young are at high risk of being harmed by witches. So people generally are asked to be careful around old, sterile women and women who have had a miscarriage. And when a child is frequently ill, it is usually said that there must be a witch was at work. So there are these things that go around families and regardless of how educated you are, you do believe that there are these bad people out there. There are these bad things, and we need to do everything that we can to protect our loved ones. So you will find people, most people in India, wearing amulets, rings, threads around their waists, they'll have lockets with some incantations. All of these things they'll fairly regularly devote themselves to performing different rituals, either, either on their own or with the help of either a witch doctor or someone else, just so as to ward away the evil eye out of their homes. Another thing that I wanted to point out was about property disputes, and this is something that Sam also touched upon, is property dispute is one of the main reasons for witchcraft accusations in India, and this happens because you have a woman who is single, might be a widow as well, and she has some property in her name. And then you have her own family members, male family members. Very rarely would it be a stranger who accuses her of being a witch. Mostly it will be men in her own family who does that to her, just because they have the intention of grabbing the property. So property disputes is one of the very big reasons for witchcraft accusations, and there's one other point that's added to it. So it's often said, it's also true that witchcraft accusation comes from men that belong to, say, a higher class or a higher caste, and that's, and these men do it to women of lower class and lower caste. But when you look at property dispute, that within the family itself, it could be a family that's already marginalized. And the men and women belong to the same family, to the same downtrodden family and the same caste, but then these men are doing it to their women, so there isn't a higher class man or a high caste man involved here. The family is doing it to one of her own, just because she has a property in her name and she can't really stand up for herself. But the other way is also true that generally it happens from a higher class or a higher caste man to a lower class or a lower caste woman. So it's a property dispute. The main motive is to grab the property, but then how do you do it? Superstition, fear, gossip, rumor, all these things help you then do that. And you say that you, someone in your family had some disease or something didn't work out. It could be a very minor thing, but you tend to then blame it on the woman just so as to label her as a witch and then take away her property. [00:25:56] Samantha Spence: It removes your responsibility, then, if you blame somebody else, it's somebody else's fault, and it's just removing, so it absolves that person of any responsibility whatsoever and puts it onto the person who's completely innocent. [00:26:08] Josh Hutchinson: Such a good point. You spoke earlier about the difficulties in approaching this culturally, because no one wants to interfere with another group's culture. However, every culture has these negative consequences somewhere within it, and we all need to work to address those things. So how do you tackle the negative without interfering with the positive aspects? [00:26:46] Samantha Spence: In international human rights, you have this theory of universalism and cultural relativism, and there's long been the argument that human rights are universal to all, and the counter argument is, yeah, but not in our culture. In our culture, we believe this. As I said, it's not so much tackling the belief as it is the manifestation of the belief, because everybody believes you can't go over and as Amit well knows, this happened to me recently in India, why are you over here telling us how to behave? And it's that's not what it's about. It's about take away all that, and it's about the women and the victims. And I, for me, these, oh it's our culture, this, it just becomes an excuse or a layer to justify, and the reality is that people are being killed, that's the reality, that's what we're trying to stop. We're not coming to take away your culture, or whatever you believe in, that's not my right to do. But what... My, I feel my right is to do is to protect these people that cannot speak for themselves and you provide that voice there, but of course you're always going to get these labels because people don't want to change the status quo. That's the way it works. If a system is working based on these characteristics, then why would they want to change it, those in power? Why would you want to empower women and give them a voice? Look what's happening across the world. We need to shut them down. So for me, the. The UN, universalism is supposed to be there, but countries very often use this cultural relativism argument. And I completely agree, culture is different everywhere. I mean, Even in the UK, from the north to the south, it's very different in people. I'm a northerner, my accents can tell, but it depends all over. Take all that away though, what is the issue? The issue is that people are being harmed, people are being killed and discriminated against. And that's, for me, the way I look at it, because you can't challenge the others. I can't anyway, because I don't live in that particular society or culture, and you don't want to come across as that you are coming across with your Western values, which is something else that has been thrown there. Again, that's not the case. It's not Western values. The values are that people are dying. And that's everybody's values. And we need to sort it. How? We don't know. But yeah, let's get to the crux of the issue and stop making excuses about why we're doing it. [00:29:05] Amit Anand: Yeah. There's also, if we are focusing only on the law or the legal aspect or looking at it from the very human rights centric, taking that approach, then I guess we tend to, at some point, we will stumble upon power and authority, these two, these two words, in a society like India. So even if we are not talking about culture or belief system or witchcraft accusation or what that is, we can't really turn a blind eye to the fact that there is someone dying or getting seriously injured because of what's happening. But if we are only looking at it from a very legal point of things, we'll know that it's about control. It's about power and authority and which is directly going against right to life or equality before law. To some extent, if we take help of the law, it can solve the problem to some extent, but then we then need to really tell people that why is it that this person is a victim of why are we calling this person a victim? Because to the ones who are doing it, that person isn't a victim. That person is the bad guy, the bad person. So they feel that whatever their actions is all good. It's good. It's getting a very big support from the community that nobody's thinking that it's wrong. But if you are looking from the victim's perspective or what the law actually tells these people is that there is a victim involved here and it's about what you people are doing is you are trying to make sure that the status quo doesn't change. You want to hold on to the power, you want to hold on to the authority that you get by virtue of using all of these things to then manipulate the larger society, and then they back you up with whatever it is that you are doing. So again, it's about gender relations, it's about, it's mostly about men who are trying to control gender relations through various rules, regulations that they often impose on women. And then women who do not abide by them, who are vocal, who want to fight for their rights, then they are the ones who get punished. And witchcraft accusation is just one part of it. Women have been punished for being vocal in different ways. Domestic violence, rape, domestic abuse, gender based crimes. There are so many offenses that and so many different forms of punishment that women have to bear and go through because they are trying to be vocal and witchcraft accusation is a part of all of this. It's one form of that larger punishment that is done to women for just being, just trying to be vocal, just trying to stand up for themselves. To some extent, if you are taking the legal perspective or the human rights centric approach it's, I'm not saying that it won't work, it works, but then it can only go so far. Beyond a certain point, I believe the law does not know what more it can do. It can specify the rule. It can tell you if you do this offense, that's the punishment that you will get, but our focus shouldn't be that, and to pass a law is a very good thing, but we should try to focus on prevention rather than punishing people for having committed a very gruesome offence. If we are capable of at least in some ways getting to a point where we can actually prevent these things, then I guess it would make a much more sense. And then we can say, turn around and say that society actually learned a few things that we try to make sure that it won't happen. Because if it does, the law obviously is there, but our focus should be about preventing it rather than strengthening the law up to a point wherein maybe to some extent, it doesn't really make that much sense in paper, because at some point, it's going to then attack culture, it's going to attack religion, but I don't think that would help, because you would then, in some ways, be violating the rights of other people, as well. You would be telling them that this is wrong, you don't believe in these things, that shouldn't be the thing. And this is where I guess a lot of confusion exists, that you're not telling you not to believe, you're telling you to believe, but then you also should be mindful of other people's right. You would believe, or whatever it is that you hold close to yourself shouldn't then lead up to violent crimes, shouldn't then encourage other people to do violent crimes. And this is where both law and then society both these different factors should then actually work together to then try and find a compromise, a solution that is close to a compromise so that the violence stops. [00:33:49] Samantha Spence: Yeah, I'll just jump on that. As women are the bearers of their own culture and places the rights are assigned to them. It depends on their religion, ethnicity, class, caste, and that's fine. But my question is, and it touched on what Amit has just said, how can women be equal legally if they're not equal socially? The answer is, they can't. It's impossible. I go back, you can have all the laws in the world, but if you're not equal in society, then it doesn't matter. It's as simple as that. And that is the problem. And that will always continue to be the problem until we sort that out. And people, again, don't want to sort that out because the power and control, the status quo it's there throughout the world, and people don't want others to get above the station, and they want to keep people in their place, because when people become outspoken and they start to get educated, they start to challenge. People in, in power don't want that. That's the problem. You need to be equal in society before you can be equal legally. And we don't have that as women, unfortunately. [00:34:56] Josh Hutchinson: And how do you go about solving that? [00:35:01] Samantha Spence: That's the question, isn't it? For me, I think you give women the tools to empower themselves. But again, that's difficult in different societies and situations. Education, I think you educate and you make people aware within their own cultures. Again, this is pointless me coming and telling somebody from a completely different culture how to live their life. That wouldn't, that's not right. There's many NGOs, smaller NGOs that are working within their own languages and within their own cultures to make this understanding of how it works for them. There's not a one size fits all model, there's no magic bullet. It's little steps. We've been taking little steps for years, and it's little steps. There's a lot to overcome and I'm really glad that we have people like Amit, for example, who, who are men, who are fighting this cause, because that's what we need. We need everybody. Men can be part of the problem, but they're also part of the solution, and we need that. We need everybody to work together, because if everybody's not working together, then you're not going to win this battle. And that's what we need, a more holistic approach of everybody on the same page. How we get that? If you find out, please tell me. [00:36:14] Sarah Jack: But we do, we need to work across the cultures, across the miles, around the globe, together like that. [00:36:26] Samantha Spence: Across the cultures is that, as we go back, people are dying. People are suffering. That's cross cultural. That's nothing to do with any of those excuses or, oh no, not here. No, people are dying. We need to sort that. We need to empower people, because the levels of violence are horrific. And there's a phrase that was used for women, which is womb to tomb. So from the very start with female infanticide, right to the very end of widows being murdered, all the way through is this cycle of violence. And it needs to stop. It just cannot continue. And I think we just keep trying and trying to get the message across as a community. That's all we can do. [00:37:10] Josh Hutchinson: And as Sarah mentioned, this is happening globally, and I think it's important to note that other nations are facing this problem. Many are. Killings like this even happen in the U. S. occasionally, so it is a problem that's common to probably every culture but it sounds like every culture is using the same excuse or reason for not dealing with it. [00:37:45] Samantha Spence: Very much yeah, I think the problem is state impunity doesn't happen here. It's not our problem. And you see it on the reports that come through from the UN special rapporteurs that go into a country and the country will completely deny all knowledge of it happening. And until it's actually realized that there's a problem, then nothing will be done about it. And, of course, there's this phrase in the UK, it's, yes, it's the headline is tomorrow's chip paper, because the world moves on, it doesn't become a priority, something else happens and something else happens and takes over and that will always be the case, and that's been the case for the rights of women for forever. You keep fighting and fighting, this is just another manipulation and a way to, of controlling. [00:38:31] Amit Anand: Yeah, a lot of the debate is. In India, it's mostly about what exactly is violence against women, or what is gender based discrimination? Till today, there isn't a very clear understanding of what these things are, let alone different forms of violence against women or different forms of gender based discrimination. We have the harshest law on the offense of rape, but then we still haven't been able to put an end to it, or at least try and bring down the crime rates of the offense of rape, because the society thinks that young men have this right to, to rape women if they reject their proposal for marriage or if they reject their sexual advances. So they feel that it's the right thing to do. And that's where the problem lies, that we just don't know what is violence against women and what our behavior or our acts could then fit into violence against women. And then we are talking about something as complex as witchcraft accusation. Most people in India would say these are the things of movies and folklore and myths and it doesn't happen in the country, but it does happen. But we are still struggling to get past what is violence against women and then we are trying to tell them even something which is more complex and still deeper and we are trying to educate people about witchcraft accusation and this is happening and it's complex, there is culture involved, religion involved, gender relations. Solutions could be in policymaking, in education, in just raising awareness, there could be things that we haven't even thought about that could work in terms of a solution, giving voices to survivors could be one thing. Yeah, the discourse around violence against women in India is very weak, and we are trying to then build it, build something on that weaker structure, which again, That's why I think most attempts have failed to actually bring some change on the ground because the foundation itself isn't strong enough. And then we are trying to then make sure that we sustain on that weaker foundation this idea of witchcraft accusations and why do we need to stop them? So like I said, it's a, it's a very complex issue. It has links in almost every other aspect of life and how people live and how they relate to each other in India. And I think the problem starts from there. And then it becomes something entirely different when it takes the form of witchcraft accusations and witch killings in the name of men, mostly labeling women as witches. Yeah we still don't know how it starts, where it starts. Is there even a starting point? And because of these challenges, we just don't know where to look for solutions, but then just because there are these problems, we shouldn't stop talking about the problem and trying to focus on the solutions, because if we then just give up, then we aren't actually helping the victims or the survivors, that it's a very long, it's a very long fight, but that doesn't mean that people shouldn't at least try to speak and educate the ones whom they can about these things. So if that starts, then perhaps because of that could be leading up to a snowball effect and we could then educate a lot, many people and then perhaps some change, or at least we'll try to move towards some change in terms of at least bringing down these violent crimes, even if you can't really stop them, at least just trying and bringing down the, the crime rates, especially with related to witchcraft accusations and killings. [00:42:13] Samantha Spence: I think Amit just hit the nail on the head, though, it was we need to talk about it, start the conversations, and then let's see where it takes us, because I teach in the UK, and I used to teach, and they'd go, what, he what, what, historically, you're going, no, now, this is happening now, and people aren't aware it's happening now, and we need to get the conversations out there. And the more we can do that in any shape or form, it starts to create this dialogue, whether people agree or disagree. It doesn't matter, people are still talking about it. But it still goes back to this issue in society of we need the equality in society. We need that stable foundation that Amit was saying. If you're building a house, you wouldn't build it on mud, you'd have a solid foundation on which to build on. And we haven't got that. So these awareness campaigns and these conversations are good, but we also need a joined-up approach, because we found that when we were starting the network that there's so many people working on this that we weren't aware of, and we all need to come together because it's more powerful when you come together, and it gives you that gravitas to move forward. But these conversations and things like this podcast are good because it gets people thinking about, Oh my God, I didn't realize that was happening. Oh, it doesn't happen in our country. I think you'll find it does. Let's try and keep the conversations going. And also it affects everybody. I think the other thing I find is, Oh, it's not my problem. It is, it's everybody's problem. And we all need to step up and deal with it. How we do that, I don't know the answer, but little steps of moving forward as opposed to just completely denying or saying it's nothing to do with us. Yeah. [00:43:54] Josh Hutchinson: Your answers have been so enlightening and eloquent. I appreciate you both giving us your time and your best. And this has been so wonderful. Is there anything else that you wanted to be sure that you were able to say today? [00:44:15] Samantha Spence: Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for trying to help raise this awareness. We need more, definitely. [00:44:23] Amit Anand: I would say the same that it's important to have platforms like this where you can talk about things like these, because in societies where this is happening, you might not get the opportunity to talk about something as sensitive as this, because people just wouldn't want to know about this for whatever reason. So whatever opportunity you get to just get the message out should just grab that opportunity and thank you for allowing us to speak about something that's very close to us and just giving us this chance to talk about something as sensitive as witchcraft accusations. Thank you. [00:45:03] Samantha Spence: Never just accept, always challenge, always ask why. I always say to my students, why? Ask those questions, because you don't know what answers you're going to get, but if you don't challenge, and you carry on to accept, then, yeah, things won't change. Culture changes, the world changes, and we need to enable the change for good and help people, as opposed to this, it's not my problem. That doesn't get us anywhere. [00:45:31] Josh Hutchinson: Now, Sarah has End Witch Hunts News. [00:45:34] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts News. End Witch Hunts is a 501c3 non profit organization. Our Massachusetts Witch-Hunt Justice Project is actively educating about the history of hundreds of witch trial victims from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who have not been acknowledged for their suffering of such a miscarriage of justice. We are seeking formal exoneration for those convicted as witches and executed in Boston and an apology for all those documented to have suffered in the colony witch trials. We want to make this happen with an amendment to the previous legislation that has already exonerated those convicted and executed in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Please sign and then share the petition to show your support at change.org/witch trials. To learn more about this project and how you can get involved, visit Massachusettswitchtrials.org. But don't stop there. If you live in Massachusetts, you can share this project with your legislative representatives and ask them to get involved. If you are a voting member of the Massachusetts General Court, we need you to lead or collaborate on this amendment effort. Please consider reaching out to the project so that we can support you as you propose or support such an amendment. Please take action and work together to help close a chapter of American history that calls out to us all for answers. Most citizens of Earth who have been accused, attacked, or killed as witches are not known and have not been remembered. We only know of and memorialize a handful of witch hunt victims from across time. The witch hunts of today are more than a remnant of witch trials and witch hunts past. They are the bulk of the victims. Like before, the women, men, and children are unjustly blamed and feared. They are unjustly punished. We must keep working to make people aware that witch hunts are not simply the result of superstition and hysteria, but rather a fundamental human reaction to pressure and strife, an outcome of power over the vulnerable, intertwined within all cultures and religion. There are always multiple factors that are repeatedly found in combination. Informed advocates in countries gripped by witch hunts are asking us for our acknowledgement and support. You should not think, I wish I could help. Helping is simply you sharing the information in conversation and on your social media. Helping is you searching out knowledge about what is happening. Help by talking about what they told us today. Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast supports the efforts to end witch hunts. We never stop educating. You can continue to learn. Check today's show notes for links to recent news media and presentations by Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project members Sarah Jack, Josh Hutchinson, Beth Caruso, and Kathy Hermes. Does your company or organization want to invite us to present witch trial history and anti-witch-hunt advocacy? Please contact us. Your partnership helps to end witch hunts. The End Witch Hunts website has information on active witch-hunt advocacy organizations. Go and learn more. Get involved. Visit endwitchhunts.org. To support us, purchase books from our bookshop, merch from our Zazzle shop, or make a financial contribution to our organization. Our links are in the show description. [00:48:50] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah. [00:48:51] Sarah Jack: You're welcome. [00:48:53] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. [00:48:57] Sarah Jack: Join us each week. [00:48:59] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get podcasts. [00:49:03] Sarah Jack: Visit us at thoushaltnotsuffer.com. [00:49:06] Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends about the show. [00:49:09] Sarah Jack: Support our efforts to end witch hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more. [00:49:14] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.