National

‘Men also victims of witch-hunt in Odisha’

DGP plea to make law gender-neutral

The Crime branch of the Odisha police has proposed that the State government also recognise men as victims of witch-branding violence under the Odisha Prevention of Witch-Hunting (OPWH) Act.

“We have sent a proposal to government to expand the definition of witch or similar nomenclatures to include any person and not to limit it to women alone,” said Bijay Sharma, Special Director General of Police (Crime Branch) addressing a seminar here on Saturday.

As per definitions in OPWH Act, witch-hunting means an act of omission, commission or conduct on the part of anyone in identifying or defaming a woman as witch or harassing and harming a woman mentally or physically or damaging her property.

“Limitation of our legislation has been to treat witches as gender-specific, whereas in rural areas even males suffer persecution individually or in association with female members,” said Mr. Sharma.

Rise in cases

After the OPWH Act came into existence in 2014, there has been a sharp rise in the number of cases registered in police stations across the State. In 2014, only two cases were registered due to lack of awareness about the new Act.

In 2015, 58 cases were registered which went up to 83 in 2016 — an increase of 83%. In 2017 till by June, 59 cases have already been registered under the OPWH Act. “Going by the trend, we expect the registration of 120 cases this year,” said Mr. Sharma.

Keonjhar district with 49 cases is being dubbed the hotbed of the witch-branding violence followed by Nabarangpur where 42 cases have been registered.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 2:28:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/men-also-victims-of-witch-hunts-in-odisha/article19525438.ece

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