The Human Rights Commission says it is deeply concerned at the growing pattern of killing older persons on suspicion of witchcraft and calls for increased awareness and protection of their rights.
It says the revelation by Muchinga Province Police Commissioner, Dr. Charles Mbita, that the province was recording an average of 10 deaths of older persons being killed on suspicion of practicing sorcery is deeply disheartening.
The Commission’s Chief of Information, Education and Training Officer Mweelwa Muleya says the Commission is deeply concerned on the development because the killing older persons on suspicion of practicing witchcraft is becoming a pattern and widespread in a number of provinces in this country.
“This is regrettable. Older persons have a right to life and from any form of discrimination under Articles 12 and 23 of the Zambian Constitution, which must be protected. The practice of killing older persons is a serious crime of murder which must be seriously addressed by various stakeholders,” he said.
ZANIS reports that Mr. Muleya, in a statement today added the Commission calls for an end to harmful stereotyping and hostile prejudices against older persons which are resulting in age-related discrimination and aggravated violence such as killing them.
“ It is important for everyone to understand and appreciate the fact that getting old is a natural process. Everyone, with the gift of life, is destined for old age.
“ The 2015 World Health Organisation findings indicate that life expectancy in Zambia was at about 62 years old. If the trend of killing older persons is not reversed, the majority of individuals may soon be endangered species in some societies where the belief in witchcraft allegedly by of older persons is prevalent, “ he said.
He said that the Commission has urged society at large to condemn acts of killing older persons because it is almost getting out of hand. Keeping quiet about such inhuman acts gives an impression that society at large tolerates or approves of the criminal conduct of killing suspected witches or wizards, which is deeply regrettable.
The Commission will continue with its civic education activities, particularly focussing on the vulnerable groups of society in the countryside, in order to promote and protect their rights, he added.
Mr. Muleya added that the Commission is also calling upon traditional leaders to take advantage of traditional ceremonies to educate their subjects on the need to preserve, support and protect older persons.
“ Older Persons are custodians of rich but unwritten traditional and cultural values and practices that should be passed on from one generation to another for social cohesion of communities, “ he said.
Traditional leaders, he added, must also ban the practice of witch-hunting in their chiefdoms as that could be contributing to killing of older people who are mostly accused of being responsible for any unexplained illness or death.
“ There is need for specific legal and policy protection of older persons. Protection mechanisms should move beyond social protection to include physical protection in order to minimise the escalating violation of their right to life, “ he said.
The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted.