You will be glad to know that an Indian shaman who forced women to drink poison in a "witchcraft test" has been arrested. But in fact, the problem is on the rise.

Says the BBC, even in 2011 "witch hunts targeting women are common in east and central India, and a number of accused are killed every year." Most recently, when a young woman in Shivni village in central Chhattisgarh state fell ill, townspeople suspected witchcraft — which is what prompted the wholesale roundup and "testing" of the village's female population. They were forced by the shaman to drink a brew made from a poisonous herb, which he said would compel confession. Of the 30 women initially hospitalized, five remain, one in serious condition.

"Dayan Pratha," or the practice of witchcraft, is still widely credited in parts of rural India, and woman are almost always the targets of witch-hunts. Indeed, witch-hunts are on the rise. Last year, the Women's News Network quoted the editor of the Cornell Law Journal on the practice. Said Rebecca Vernon,

Over the last fifteen years, an estimated 2,500 Indian women have been killed because they were 'witches...Witch hunts are most common among poor rural communities with little access to education and health services, and longstanding beliefs in witchcraft. When an individual gets sick or harm befalls the community, the blame falls not upon a virus or crop disease, but upon an alleged witch.

And as is so often the case, already-marginalized women are often the scapegoats for fear and anger. As Kanchan Mathur, Professor at The Instititute of Development Studies, told WNN, "Poor, low-caste women are easy targets for naming/branding (as a witch)...Women who are widowed, infertile, possess 'ugly' features or are old, unprotected, poor or socially ostracized are easy targets." Women accused of witchcraft have been physically abused, ostracized and driven from their homes. While as of now four Indian states have enacted legislation against "witch hunts," the superstitions persist and education is clearly crucial. Besides which, the communities are often isolated enough that it's practically as well as socially difficult for an accused witch to contact law enforcement.


Indian Shaman 'Poisons Women In Witchcraft Test'
[BBC]
INDIA: Laws Fall Short For Witchcraft Charges [Women's News Network]
Village 'Witches' Beaten In India [BBC]
Defenceless Woman Branded ‘Witch' [India Unheard]