The failure to serve posthumous justice to the thousands of people — mainly women — persecuted as witches in post-Reformation Scotland “prolongs misogyny,” a Scottish lawmaker launching a bid to grant them a legal pardon has said.
“The only way we can move forward in terms of where we are with misogyny and prejudice in society is by fixing these injustices of our past,” Scottish National Party lawmaker Natalie Don said, ahead of yesterday’s launch of a Scottish Parliament member’s bill.
She also hoped that the bill could contribute to awareness of parts of the world where women and girls still face such accusations and their violent consequences, she said.
A pardon for the 4,000 people tortured and often executed under the Witchcraft Act of 1563 would be a collective rejection of misogynistic attitudes in the past and the present, Don said.
She believes the campaign for acknowledgment of the historical femicide has gained traction in the past few years because of its contemporary resonance.
“Specific kinds of women that were targeted, generally because they were a little bit different, they were poor, they were outcasts. We still see that in the modern day — although it’s maybe not the same characteristics — where women who do choose to be different or independent feel men’s anger,” she said.
When Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a formal apology to those affected on International Women’s Day in March, she said that the “deep misogyny” motivating the Witchcraft Act had not been consigned to history.
“Today it expresses itself not in claims of witchcraft, but in everyday harassment, online rape threats and sexual violence,” Sturgeon said.
The launch was welcomed by Queen’s Counsel Claire Mitchell of the Witches of Scotland campaign, which has led calls for an apology and pardon.
“This is a way for people in the 21st century to acknowledge and to have their say in pardoning those who suffered the most grave miscarriage of justice centuries before,” she said.
Momentum for national acknowledgment continues to grow, with the charity Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland last month securing an apology from the Church of Scotland for its central role in the persecution, and has now identified a possible location for a national memorial in Fife, the locus of much of Scotland’s witch panic.
The bill is launched amid a swell of grassroots groups researching local prosecutions and organizing community memorials.
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