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April 1, 2013

Lawmakers on a witch-hunt in Indonesia

Proposed bill threatens shamans, sorcerers with jail and fines.

An Indonesian dukun (shaman) during cleaning rituals in Jakarta, Indonesia, 03 June 2008. EPA/Weda

Black magic has become an unexpected target of Indonesia's penal code reforms.

Under a bill proposed in March, anyone found guilty of using witchcraft to bring about "someone's illness, death, mental or physical suffering" could be punished with up to five years in jail or more than $30,000 in fines. Backers of the bill say it would prevent fraud by self-advertised shamans.

The draft law is part of a major overhaul to Indonesia's Criminal Code, last updated in 1958. Many Indonesians questioned why representatives tasked with modernising the law chose to focus on a problem associated with medieval times.