This research explored the role of the Witchcraft Act Cap 18 of laws of Tanzania in dealing with the problem of witchcraft. In particular, it interrogated how the law protects elderly women in Shinyanga region (Sukumaland) who are accused of witchcraft and exposed to serious violence including killing. Some of the issues considered in this research so as to facilitate the production of knowledge regarding the problem of witchcraft violence in Tanzania include the victimisation process of elderly women as witches, and the performance of the Witchcraft Act Cap 18 efforts in dealing with the problem of witchcraft violence. This research took the socio-legal form, combining social and legal aspects in exploring the problem of witchcraft violence. Socially, the intersecting factors of gender, age, and socio-economic conditions of poverty contribute to making elderly women the victims of witchcraft accusation and kill-ing. A high belief in witchcraft within the Sukuma ethnic group and the proliferation of witchdoctors’ services to detect witches is at the centre of violence against elderly women. Witchdoctors in most cases detect women as witches in case of a severe illness or death in the family or neighbourhood. Further, it was revealed that elderly women in Sukumaland are targeted because witchcraft is inherited along the matrilineal line from mother to daughter whereas men only inherit traditional healing knowledge (as witchdoctors) from ancestors. This notion has perpetrated witchcraft-related violence and killing of elderly women, with the perpetrators (witchdoctors and hired killers) often enjoying impunity. From the legal point of view, gaps in the Witchcraft Act Cap 18 such as the lack of a clear definition of witchcraft and a difficulty in proving witchcraft in court, diminishes the role of this law in dealing with the problem of witchcraft. Opinion is divided among the law enforcers who participated in this research on the validity of witchcraft law given its limited functioning. I therefore argue that it is debatable whether Witchcraft Act Cap 18 is (still) useful in eliminating witchcraft-related violence.

Additional Metadata
Keywords witchcraft, violence against women, elderly women, anti-witchcraft law, Tanzania
Thesis Advisor Arts, Karin
Persistent URL
Series Social Justice Perspectives (SJP)
Sulu, Jamila Said. (2018, December 17). Protecting Tanzanian elderly women against witchcraft-related violence : The role of the anti-witchcraft law. Social Justice Perspectives (SJP). Retrieved from