Adjudicating fear of witchcraft claims in refugee law

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Journal Article
Journal of Law and Society, 2018, 45 (3), pp. 370 - 397
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© 2018 The Author. Journal of Law and Society & 2018 Cardiff University Law School. In refugee applications involving witchcraft-related violence (WRV), those accused of witchcraft are largely women, and those fearing witchcraft are more often men. This is one of two interrelated articles reporting on cases where claimants feared harm from witchcraft or occult practices. It argues that WRV is a manifestation of gender-related harm, one which exposes major failings in the application of refugee jurisprudence. Systemic inattention to the meaning and application of the Convention ground of religion, combined with gender insensitivity in analysis, meant that claims were frequently reconfigured by decision makers as personal grudges. The fear of witchcraft cases pose an acute ontological challenge to refugee status determination, as the claimed harm falls outside what is understood to be objective, verifiable, or Convention-related. Male applicants struggled to make their claims comprehensible as a result of the feminized and ‘irrational’ characterization of witchcraft fears and beliefs.
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