GHANA: MPs Decry Spate Of Violence Against Women ... Call For Stiffer Punishment

Some members of the country’s Parliament yesterday expressed worry at the rate at which violence is being perpetrated against women. In their various submissions in the House yesterday, the MPs for Savelugu, Ahafo Ano South and Mion constituencies, Mary Boforo Salifu, Balado Manu and Dr. Yakubu Alhassan respectively condemned violence against women in no uncertain terms.

Hon. Mary Boforo Salifu expressed dismay about the constant disregard for the law against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which to her is still prevalent among several ethnic groups in the country, although the law that criminalized the act in 1994 was further strengthened by Parliament in 2007. “In the area of culture, Mr. Speaker, some communities still practice Trokosi, an outlawed custom which involves ritual servitude and sexual exploitation of girls.

There is constant disregard of the law against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM),” she noted, adding “the consequences against these inhuman acts are indeed worrisome. Aside the reproductive and maternal health problems, many women die and properties are being confiscated”.

She also complained against the systematic sexual abuse in conflict situations.

According to her, a survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner in some countries across the globe, this year.

That notwithstanding, she said the status of women in the country has been determined by the kind of girlhood they have had, where traditional values, cultural norms as well as socializing processes, saying “all appear to bestow a low status on the girl child and low status on women”.

Madam Boforo defined violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life, citing an instance where a man beating his wife is considered a purely family affair.

“Mr. Speaker, violence against women in most cases goes unreported. Majority of these victims are afraid to lose their marital status, whilst some are very ignorant of their rights. For others, they will prefer to die under such tortures because they have no other means of subsistence”, she stated.

Furthermore, she noted “widows and battered women remain very vulnerable, miserable, marginalized and often rejected by their families or in-laws. They remain traumatized in their various difficult conditions or survive by chance”.

Available statistics from the United Nations (UN) have it that at least one out of every three women around the world has either been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime - with the abuser usually someone known to her.

The MP attributes the difficulties women go through to some weird religious beliefs and other influences from community leaders, who exhort women to stand by their husbands under all circumstances, while at the same time failing to take a clear stand against wife battery and marital rape.

Madam Boforo, therefore, called on Ghanaians and other stakeholders to collaborate effectively in compelling the customary system to fully respect the rights of women and girls as enshrined in the Constitution and laws of the land.

She challenged government and other relevant actors to denounce publicly, all forms of violence against women and girls including marital rape, wife beating, child and other forced marriages, Trokosi, FGM and humiliating widowhood rites.

The Member of Parliament (MP) Ahafo Ano South constituency, Hon. Balado Manu raised concerns about the use of teachers as objects of violence. According to him, the use of teachers in that regard tends to portray a different image about the profession since it put teachers in a very bad light. “As a teacher myself, I shouldn’t allow such an example to be cited, we have had enough from the society”, he decried.

Hon. Balado Manu said this when he raised a point of order against the MP for Mion, Dr. Yakubu Alhassan when he was contributing to a statement on the International day for the elimination of violence against women. In his submission, the Mion MP cited the female teachers as those who perpetuate violence against their fellow colleague female pupils.

Hon. Balado Manu thus could not comprehend why the Member did not use lawyers and judges as examples, instead of teachers, since according to him, they are always the vulnerable ones.

He also had an issue about the fear factor that is often associating with women going into active politics or seeking political office, since according to him, their male counterpart’s habour the perception that their positions would be threatened. “This is why women sometimes are not given the leverage and all these can be classified as violence against women”.

However, the MP for Mion, Dr. Yakubu Alhassan said violence and its perpetuity should be condemned in no uncertain terms for the fact that modern day human beings have evolved from their deeds. For this reason, he said the issue of 15% to 71% of women receiving violence from their closest partners was threatening enough for the whole world to rise up and do something about the canker.

Furthermore, the Mion MP condemned recent reports where a teacher was said to have inserted things into the private parts of a female pupil. He thus called for the strict implementation of existing laws which frown against some of these acts of violence against especially women and children.

On her part, the MP for Bantama, Ceicilia Dapaah, stressed the need for any form of violence, be it against a woman or a man, big or small, must be condemned. She thus had cause to condemn some of existing cultural practices which are not only inimical to the country’s development, but also create maternal health problems.

SOURCE: Ghanian Chronicle

AUTHORS: Linda Akrasi Kotey and Stephen Odoi Larbi

URL: Click here

DATE: 03/12/2009

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