Report by Bhaskar Pradhan; Bhubaneswar: On the second day of national workshop on the issue of women’s rights violation due to witch branding organized by ActionAid with the support of National Commission for Women, Sri Prafulla Samal, Minister, Women & Child Development Department joined and listened to the sharing by victims and survivors of witch branding held from nine districts viz; Ganjam, Gajapati, Keonjhar, Sundergarh, Kandhmal, Malkangiri, Koraput, Nuapada Raygada of Odisha.
There was a demand from the people to make Odisha a witch hunting Free State in the country. There should be efforts by Govt. to create example through identifying the most vulnerable areas and taking appropriate action to stop the heinous crime. Listening to the plight of the victims of the witch branding, the Honorable Minister said that the Govt. will frame rule to ensure justice to the victims. Also, Sri Samal has told to personally visit some of the most vulnerable districts like Ganjam and Raygada and see the situation and take appropriate action. A women victim from Ganjam district shared the plight of being branded as witch and the related violence she faced. The Minister got moved by the story of women and committed to visit her village and provide rehabilitation.
Joining the workshop, Mrs Kasturi Mohapatra, Chairperson, Odisha State Commission for Child Rights said that branding any person as a witch is violation of human rights and that prevent people from living a dignified life. The children of victims should be protected and ensured with the education and basic health care facilities as their rights.
Mr. Debabrat Patra, Regional Manager of ActionAid while sharing the key recommendations of the workshop, he told that Govt. need to identify the high prevalent areas of the issue of witch branding related violence, and create awareness as preventive measures. Along with this the victims need to be rehabilitated properly and brought back to the village where the victim has been through out from the village and link them with the existing schemes and entitlements. There should be efforts to provide free legal service to the victim and survivors and ensure justice.
The members of State Women Commission Ms. Snehanjali Mohanty told to that the commission will take up the cases of witch branding and related violence on women as violation of women’s rights.
Sashiprava Bindhani, State Information Commissioner, Odisha State RTI Commission joined the workshop and told that making the law accessible to people is very vital in preventing the issue of women’s rights violation due to witch branding.
B N Durga, Programme Officer of ActionAid coordinated this programme. Among others were the Ghasiram Panda Programme Manager, ActionAid, Bighneswar Sahu, Associate Editor- Samadrusti, Rachana Sharma, PLD, Delhi, Prof. Dev Nathan, Institute for Human Development, Delhi, Khirod Rout, President, Progressive Lawyers Association, and Sushila Prajapati, Programme Officer, ActionAid.