Spirit Child: A ritual of killing disabled children in Ghana

25 Jan

The other day Devin sent me this Spirit Child (click on the link for media) video from Aljazeera of an investigation about a practice of a ritual of killing disabled children that are thought to be possessed by evil spirits in Ghana. The first half of the film is interesting and very informative. The second half “catch the predator” set up is a little bit too much, but I guess that’s just a journalism style. The content is what matters.

Our friend and fellow classmate Mike Moran described the video better in his own words “[the video] is mostly disturbing but somehow more terrifying because those concoction men seem so excited to kill children. The whole setup and raid thing was a bit much but definitely good that something is being done. I hope that woman at the end was serious about taking action to stop it. It’s one thing to pass legislation and “enforce” it in the capital, while allowing not addressing the real base of the issues in village society. Hopefully there’s some local education/advocacy going along with it”.

Disability is defined differently by every person, family, community and country. Societal norms, stigmas, cultural beliefs, the educational and health care systems, transportation availability and inconsistency in defining disabilities impacts the inclusive practices put in place by governments. In traditionalist countries disability is a stigma and a burden to families; therefore, disability awareness is minimal and inclusive education practices are practically non-existent.

There are children born with disabilities that are being kept in the dark. Women are blamed for having a disabled child, and as a result, the child is hidden, denied critical care, ignored, and neglected by their families. In traditional societies disabilities are considered a taboo and are seen as a curse against communities. Society’s values are one of the barriers impeding to treat these children as human beings; thus, every day they are being deprived of their human rights.  The result of this stigmatization and exclusion of children with disabilities leads to a profitable business between families and militia/rebels or in this case concoction men. Families frequently either volunteer their child with disabilities or they receive money to send their children to fight in the frontlines or they hire concoction men to kill their children ‘possessed by evil spirits’. What about that for a human rights violation that hasn’t been widely addressed by INGOs, academia or the media. The indifference and neglect towards children with disabilities and the cultural prejudices are conveying a message of acceptance for the unscrupulous acts committed against these children.

Societal values in these communities allow these atrocities to happen without even questioning the moral and ethical values of the crime. But then again, I don’t know if we will get to see a generational shift of values in our lifetime and like Mike said “It’s one thing to pass legislation and “enforce” it in the capital city, while allowing not addressing the real base of the issues in village society”. How can a situation like this be approached and addressed at a local and international level?  Is education the key solution to a generational shift of values? What’s next on the INGOs agenda on disabilities awareness and program implementation?

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One Response to “Spirit Child: A ritual of killing disabled children in Ghana”

  1. Devin February 5, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Great post Gina. I think this video speaks volumes to the situation . The situation in Ghana reminds me a lot of your presentation at the Human Rights & Education Colloquium this past Fall discussing the state of mental health facilities in Mexico. In Ghana, individuals are seen literally chained to trees forced to live in their own filth and undergo slapdash religious healing in order to “cure” them of their ailments. The video also highlights a dichotomous role of religion in caring for those with disabilities – on one hand you have the spiritual healers or the ritual killers who assume that disabilities are evil spirits, a phenomenon which I can objectively aver is cancerous to this cause. On the other hand, this HRW video depicts a group of women who use religious spaces, in this case a church, as a forum to discuss, educate and advocate for the cause of helping people living with disabilities.

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