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Abominable acts of incest : What help for victims?

Wed, 23 Mar 2016 Source: Vicky Wireko

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I have been wondering whether in our statute books there is a clear punishment for incest, especially where it involves underage children who may not necessarily be blood relations of their “attackers” such as a stepsister.

The issue of incest keeps being reported in the media. Fathers are sleeping with their daughters and sometimes even fathering their biological daughter’s children.

It is happening with brothers, stepbrothers and uncles forcibly sleeping with their female relatives but what punishments are there to deter others?

Incest by stepbrothers

My curiosity on incest was piqued following a story reported in the March 19 issue of the Daily Graphic concerning two brothers from a community in the Sagnariga District in the Northern Region who are reported to have defiled their 15-year-old stepsister.

The brothers, 32 and 27 years old, are reported to have confessed to the incest when they appeared before the Katariga Kamo Naa, the chief of the area where the brothers come from. They also confessed that on various occasions, they defiled the girl despite the fact that they have wives, with the older brother having two wives.

Punishment

So what punishment did they face after confessing to the offence? According to the Daily Graphic report, while the father of the two brothers disowned them as his sons, the chief of the area to whom they confessed the offence, banished them from the community.

As for the poor 15-year-old girl at the centre of the offence it looks as if she has been left alone to deal with her trauma.

We need the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to go to the aid of the girl as quickly as possible, not only to offer her psychological counselling but also to take up the matter and deal with it to the logical conclusion. The girl’s future should be a concern so she does not live in fear and ridicule for the rest of her life.

A few years ago, an Austrian incest case became international headline news when a father kept his own biological daughter in their basement apartment, denying her access to the rest of the world and fathered her children.

Both the girl and the children were badly bruised psychologically. Social welfare had to move in quickly to get them rehabilitated. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to imprisonment.

If you ask me, I would say incest, whether by a blood relation or non-blood relation, should never be downplayed as it involves the future of a vulnerable girl or young woman. We should not leave incest cases for just families to solve without looking at the psychological effects the attack might have on the victim.

Sometimes the victims live under the same roof with their attackers and they recognise them as their older relatives in whom they can confide for protection. Why would society look on for such trust to be abused and the young girls taken advantage of?

Incest, in some instances, is more like rape/defilement. In the case involving the 15-year-old girl, for example, the first time the incest took place, she had gone to the older brother’s room on March 5, 2016, to watch television in the night. She fell asleep and the two stepbrothers forcibly had sex with her and threatened her not to tell anyone.

Though she informed her mother, she did not believe her and dismissed the allegation until it happened the second time. This time, the younger of the brothers who is 27, sent her to buy him fried yam.

On her return with the yam, he pushed her down and forcibly had sex with her. She shouted for help and that brought other people to the scene. Are both instances not defilement cases? Unfortunately, it had to happen a second time before the girl’s own mother could believe her daughter was in some form of danger.

Ministry of Gender

One would like to plead with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to take the issue of the 15-year-old girl up with no hesitation. The Ministry should also look into the many incest cases that have been reported over time and left hanging and seek justice for the girls.

If for nothing at all, the girls need to be seen to be receiving some psychological help. The trauma they suffer at the hands of their attackers need to be cured so they do not suffer any mental setbacks in future.

Columnist: Vicky Wireko