Publication of the week: Professor Susan Edwards

7 August 2017

Edwards, S., “Protecting children and vulnerable adults from witchcraft and spirit possession: related violence, victimisation and other harms”, International Family Law, Policy and Practice 4.3 (Winter 2016), 31-40

This article explains the historical and legal background to the current position where accusations of witchcraft are made throughout the world.  Professor Edwards argues that “beliefs in witchcraft are manufactured and promulgated to control and suppress many ethnic and powerless groups and exonerate the powerful”.  In the UK, genuine belief in witchcraft has been used as a defence in criminal cases where violence, including death, has been inflicted on a victim.  It has also been an issue in care proceedings.  The people concerned are usually migrants living in hardship, and the victims tend to be children aged 8-14.  Human traffickers also exploit belief in witchcraft to control their victims, and witchcraft persecution has been used as the basis for asylum claims.  Cases of witchcraft accusation and persecution will continue to reach British courts in various forms. Professor Edwards concludes that “understanding the signs of witchcraft abuse is crucial to safeguarding children.”

The paper was originally given at the International Centre for Family Law, Policy and Practice’s conference: Culture, Dispute Resolution and the Modernised Family (King’s College, London, 6-8 July 2016).  Read more about the conference on the Centre’s website.  The full text of this paper and the others from IFLPP 4.3 can be downloaded here.

Professor Susan Edwards is a researcher and campaigner and a barrister (Door Tenant, 1 Grays Inn Square, London). She is an expert witness and member of the Expert Witness Institute.  She is Dean of Law at Buckingham.