Chart of the week #9: Killings due to witchcraft beliefs in Tanzania

How many people are killed each year in Tanzania due to witchcraft beliefs?

Source: Tanzania Human Rights Reports, 2010-2013

Source: Tanzania Human Rights Reports, 2010-2013

This chart is based on data from police reports and compiled in the annual Tanzania Human Rights Reports, published by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). The latest report, covering 2013, was published a couple of weeks ago.

The report explains how these killings often happen:

“people accused of practising witchcraft have been punished by mob justice which in many instances have led to killings of the accused persons. The most affected members of the society have been women, especially those of an old age.”

It’s worth recognising that there’s a lot of uncertainty in this data, so it’s impossible to be confident about the trend shown in the chart above. More cases being reported by the police is not the same as more cases actually happening – it may be that the police are getting better at keeping such statistics, or that people are more willing to report cases.

And the true figures for each year are likely to be considerably higher. As the LHRC reports have noted in the past, not all incidents of witchcraft-related killings are reported to the police. According to one person interviewed for the 2009 report:

“It’s risky to inquire with the police about a relative killed due to witchcraft reasons because you will be regarded as an accomplice. And they might end up taking your life as well.”

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See also: Witchcraft and witch hunts in England and Tanzania