Spellbound? Opposition MP sponsors bill on state regulation of witchcraft

Spellbound? Opposition MP sponsors bill on state regulation of witchcraft
Independent Russian MP Ilya Ponomaryov has drafted a bill on regulating “occult and mystical” services in healthcare, introducing licenses for healers and wizards, and also the control of qualified doctors over their work.

In an explanatory note to the bill Ponomaryov wrote that fighting against the occult business is too difficult as it is extremely profitable and can afford a very powerful lobby. Instead, he suggests amending several federal laws and bringing all such activities under strict state control.

If the draft is passed it would introduce the legal definition of occult and mystical services as “actions of non-medical character delivered by persons without special medical training and aimed at patients’ healing through supernatural abilities of the human body.” The services would be licensed by regional governments and only be valid within the regional borders.

The detailed procedure would have to be developed by the state consumer rights agency Rospotrebnadzor, but Ponomaryov holds that it should involve permission from a medical non-profit organization. The bill also puts the healing practices under the medics’ control.

Other innovations include a ban on advertising the occult services on television and radio, as well as public transport and outdoor installations. It also prohibits working with patients with certain diagnoses such as cancer, contagious diseases (including AIDS), drug addiction and acute mental illnesses. The bill stipulates that violations must be punished by fines from 2,000 to 10,000 rubles (from $60 to $300).

In press comments about the initiative, Ponomaryov noted that Russian legislators had already tried to limit the activities of various healers and wizards in 2010, but the draft could not pass the lower house due to the efforts of the powerful pro-occult lobby.

RIA Novosti/liya Pitalev

At the same time, Ponomaryov said that the total ban on commercial occultism “would not be entirely just” as sometimes patients get better because of the placebo effect and sometimes non-traditional methods yield legitimate results. This despite, according to the MP, that only one healer in a thousand can claim to be genuine.

Ilya Ponomaryov has gained fame over the past few years for his uncompromising opposition stance and participation in mass rallies against alleged poll violations (which took place after the parliamentary elections that gave Ponomaryov another term in the State Duma).

Eventually, the leaders of the moderate leftist party Fair Russia threatened to oust the MP from their ranks and from the parliamentary caucus if he did not stop his protest activities. Ponomaryov refused and now works as an independent.

Another story that brought the young politician some publicity was the investigation into the alleged corruption scheme with his participation launched in 2013. Russian prosecutors claimed that in 2011 Ponomaryov received $750,000 from the state-sponsored Skolkovo innovation hub for 10 lectures and one research paper, yet only delivered part of the work. After the scandal, Skolkovo managers sued the MP and the court ordered him to return the money.

Ponomaryov lodged an appeal against the ruling which is still in process.

RIA Novosti/Oleg Lastochkin