Black Magic in the Ivory Coast

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
1 March 2021

We act on behalf of an asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast who made an asylum application on the basis that she was married to an abusive husband and that her estranged husband will kill her if returned and will punish her family. She will not be able to relocate or ask for protection from the State because the estranged husband is a practitioner of black magic.

Her husband’s status as a black magic practitioner is important in the context of this asylum application because in the Ivory Coast and neighbouring countries the powers of the black magic practitioner has a great deal of power over all matters, from individual disease to weather events, and given the fear and recognition accorded to practitioners like our client’s husband we put to the Home Office that it is plausible that the applicant and her family and community members would be too fearful to hide or protect her in case they were to anger her husband in any way.  The husband would be able to command the loyalty and obligation of individuals connected through kinship, trade, political and religious networks across the country and therefore she cannot relocate to another party of the Ivory Coast.  Our client is a “member of a social group” for the purpose of the refugee convention. I.e. as a woman. The conditions of women in the Ivory Coast is characterised by significant social discrimination and inequality and they suffer sexual and gender based violence.  According to the US State Department Report 2019, domestic violence is legal, widespread and culturally tolerated or accepted and FGM remains a serious problem despite prohibitive laws and threats of imprisonment and fine.  Violence against women included the killing of brides over dowry disputes, forcing a widow to marry her dead husband’s brother or as in our client’s case, violence and threat to kill.

The Government in the Ivory Coast continues to resist holding individuals accountable for domestic violence and rapes and marital rape is not an offence and there are no specific criminal offences prohibiting a husband from assaulting his wife.