Witch branding: Bihar panchayat to impose fines
A village panchayat in Bihar Wednesday said it would impose a fine of Rs.21,000 on anyone branding a woman as a witch.
"A panchayat meeting decided to fight branding of women as witches. The panchayat will impose a fine if anyone is found branding a woman as a witch," said Madhumala Devi, head of Mithai panchayat (village council) in Madhepura district.
Madhumala added: "Laws alone cannot fight this social evil of branding a woman as a witch. There is a need of social action against it."
The practice of branding women as witches and torturing them -- often to death -- continues unabated in rural Bihar.
Last year, the Bihar Human Rights Commission had directed the state government to expedite probes and trials in cases related to offences under the Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 1999.
In October, the Mithai panchayat had imposed a ban on drinking, gambling and playing or exhibiting obscene songs or films with the provision of a fine up to Rs.5,001.
Mithai, whose panchayat is the oldest in Madhepura district, is 6 km from the district headquarters en route to Saharsa. It has a population of 25,000.