A human rights group in the African nation of Malawi has secured a $71,000 grant from the Royal Norwegian Embassy to launch a study which will address the issues of witchcraft-based violence on children, women and the elderly.

“The project, which is currently in progress, is in the form of a study aimed at assessing the extent and nature of witchcraft-based violence against children, women and the elderly,” George Thindwa, executive director of the Association for Secular Humanism (ASH), founded last year to fight abuses against alleged witches, told the Malawi newspaper, the Maravi Post.

He said part of the grant will be used to advocate for a new witchcraft act which should safeguard the rights of victims.

Malawi’s state-funded Law Commission is reviewing the witchcraft act, which was made into law in 1911 during the British colonial era. The act makes it illegal to accuse anyone of being a witch or to claim that one practices witchcraft.

“Witchcraft-based violence is a serious problem in the country and has implications for human rights of Malawians who find themselves trapped in this predicament,” Thindwa, an economist-turned rights activist, said.

“No systematic research study in Malawi has focused on the nature of this form of violence and how to address it,” he said.

The study will be completed in September.

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