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Getting justice for defiled children

Tue, 28 Feb 2006 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Hannah Annor

Accra, Feb.28, GNA- Gifty was an eight year old girl attending one of the leading primary schools in Accra.

She had consistently placed third in her class thus sustaining the hope of her parents that she would live-up to her dream of becoming a successful lawyer in the future.

Unknown to Gifty the rapid development of her anatomy, which was a by-product of obesity, had nurtured the animalistic instinct of a 52-year old man in her community to defile her. The dare devil invited the little girl to join his grandchildren to play in his compound house and took advantage to hatch a plot to defile the girl, who bled to death.

The sad end of Gifty is the untold story of a number of females, who have either been raped or abused by people they least suspected to be prying to devour them.

Rape and defilement have become two lethal weapons in the hands of irresponsible men to wreck the dignity of womanhood. The phenomenon, is threatening a permanent reign of terror despite the prompt response of law enforcement agencies to deal with the menace as well as the attention the Media had given to it. The situation has made it no longer safe for mothers to leave their daughters in the care of neighbours or even close relatives. Some of the victims have contracted HIV/AIDS or had their womb ruptured. Quite recently there was a story of a 20-year old student, who was raped and killed by a security guard in her school. A 14-year-old girl, who was allegedly defiled by a mechanic apprentice at Atonsu near Konongo in the Ashanti Region, died while the one who defiled he being tried at the court.

According to a child rights advocate, the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVISU) formerly the Women And Juvenile Unit of the Ghana Police Service a total of 713 defilement cases were recorded in 2005, with the Greater Accra Region leading with 400 cases. Reported rape cases stood at 206 within the same period. Although Ghana had ratified the UN Convention on Child Rights, and has other policy documents such as the Children's Act 560, such dehumanizing acts, still persist in the country with impunity. Most infuriating is the excuse by rapists that it was the devil that lured them to carry out their dastardly act.

Some parents also strike comprise with the culprits by taking money from them to settle the issue amicably at the expense of the health and welfare of their children.

At a protest march by women and child activists and some students in the Accra Metropolis against rampant child abuses, Ms Ekua Ansah Eshun, Chairman of the Ghana NGO Coalition for Child Rights, said the high incidence of the offence was a challenge to the country's record on human and child rights.

Ms Eshun said there was the need to change the Ghanaian culture where children, who reported domestic violence and defilement crimes, committed by relatives and neighbours were often ostracized. "As a result we would like to see an enabling environment in the home and community where children can feel comfortable to report abuses against them, sexual or otherwise", she said.

"We hope our Judiciary will see this through to the very end and ensure that justice is done," she said.

The Chairman said children must be educated also on their rights and the avenues for assistance when faced with an abuse, saying "they should not only know that it is a violation of their right, but also where to report the crime and seek assistance".

She urged parents to forge close relationships with their children in order for them to be easily approached in case of any such abuse and that they must also not compromise with such acts and agree to settle such cases out of court.

On what the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC) was doing to address the problem, the Sector Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama said MOWAC had declared 2006 as action year on defilement and warned that the Sector would strictly deal with culprits.

"To those who defile our children, and those still planning to defile, MOWAC is serving notice that this is a year of action. We shall ensure that the long arm of the law certainly catches them", she warned. Speaking at the weekly Meet-the-Press Series in Accra, Hajia Mahama said the Ministry had developed an action plan to address violence against children, as well as a Child Information System to collect and disseminate information on child related issues.

She said the Ministry would also establish a hotline to facilitate reporting of defilement cases and other abuses and would continue to create the needed awareness to protect the rights of the child. A Student Child Rights Advocate of Labone Secondary School in Accra, during a presentation ceremony to support the upkeep of a victim, urged religious bodies to educate their congregation on child rights to address the fundamental needs of children in the country. Ms Efua Bucknor, the student, said: "We are not happy because, day in and day out, we are faced with lots of problems that always place us in a defenceless position."

She said although the country had protected the rights of the child through policy documents such as the Children's Act, Act 560 and the setting up of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC), the threat of some forms of child abuses and practices still persisted in the country.

She called on the MOWAC to facilitate the process for the establishment of child panels in all districts. Ms Bucknor also appealed to the Judiciary to consider the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children's Act 560 as important provisions to give judgment on child right abuses. The radical approach to the menace is the call by a section of society for the castration of the perpetrators of rape, defilement and other sexual abuses.

Although the suggestion is too bloody and untenable for a civilised society like Ghana, it shows how frustrated the people are becoming and it behooves Gove rnment and civil society to nip in the bud all forms of sexual abuse. This is the sure way to protecting the innocent victims and preventing concerned members of the society from meting out instance justice to perpetrators of defilement and rape.

Columnist: GNA