Evil and Superstition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Religious Infanticide and Filicide

Chima Agazue, Helen Gavin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


A distinct category of women has been identified in parts of sub-Saharan Africa: those who commit acts of extreme violence and even murder against their own children in order to fulfil religious obligations or to protect themselves from perceived magico-spiritual attacks by their children. The whole of Africa is currently witnessing a heightened level of witch-hunting. Historically, many African witch-hunting incidents have been triggered by witch-doctors keen to protect their clients from the diabolical effects of witches, while others have been triggered by mere gossip or rumour among neighbours. However, in recent years, dramatised preaching on the subject of witchcraft by revivalist Christian prophets, whose major occupations are the sale of exorcisms to the ‘bewitched’, has become the latest trend in the region. These prophets and prophetesses deliver sermons and prophecies, purportedly from God, in which they identify particular children in the community as witches and prescribe the measures or punishment necessary for protection. By means of case study analysis, this chapter presents the new pattern of evil that is being perpetrated in the form of the abandonment, torture, mutilation and murder of these children by their own mothers. Further, this chapter presents the cases of the prophetesses whose sermons and prophecies, claiming to come from God, emphasise biblical passages such as, ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ (Exodus 22:18) to encourage violence against children in the name of religious obligation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerceiving Evil
Subtitle of host publicationEvil, Women and the Feminine
EditorsDavid Farnell, Rute Noiva, Kristen Smith
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781848880054
ISBN (Print)9789004373839
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2015


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