PRESS RELEASE . FIDA GHANA CALLS FOR JUSTICE FOR THE 4 YEAR OLD CHILD DEFILED IN ASSIN FOSU.
FIDA GHANA CALLS FOR JUSTICE FOR THE 4 YEAR OLD CHILD DEFILED IN ASSIN FOSU.
Justice is not accessible to all in Ghana despite the significant progress made. Traditional or customary justice although recognized in the constitution of Ghana is often at variance with statutory law. It was therefore a major upset to hear about the defilement case of a 4 year old in Assin Fosu where the suspected rapist was declared innocent by customary means. Needless to say, this is unacceptable in a country which prides its democracy on the rule of law. Justice for the 4 year old child survivor whose health and well being hangs in the balance is vital in securing child protection for all children in Assin Fosu.
The news story on myjoyonline.com recounts six cases of sexual violence against young children whose ages range from seven months to three and four years, as well as younger adolescent girls aged between 13 and 16 years. These increasing cases of sexual violence targeting young children and has resulted in the death of one girl, is indicative of social acceptance and tolerance of sexual violence in Assin Fosu. The dismissal of the case by the chief serves to reinforce a tacit approval of such behavior, which must be addressed immediately before this tolerance becomes a social norm.
The impact of this sexual violence on the health of the 4 year old survivor and the devastating consequences on her reproductive health and development calls for strong condemnation of the action by the chief and immediate arrest of the perpetrator. The delay in the arrest of the perpetrator of this crime sends out signals that the punishment does not match the crime and perpetrator can get away with it.
There is a clear conflict with human rights principles if law enforcement agencies are unable to investigate and prosecute the perpetrator of this violent act.
Defilement is a felony and as a result cannot be settled at the family or community level. Another danger which emerges out of weak enforcement of the law is the messages conveyed to boys, who are learning from these acts of impunity that sexual violence is a mark of masculinity.
Indeed, the Child and Family Welfare Policy and the Justice for Children Policy recognize the important role played by chiefs and queen mothers in adjudicating children and family disputes and has mandated them to handle family disputes and minor offences under the diversion programme provided in the Juvenile Justice Act. Also, the Justice for Children Policy requires chiefs to modify and/or eliminate harmful customary practices which inhibit the development of children. If indeed, the chief’s approach in handling this defilement matter is a customary practice, then FIDA-Ghana considers that practice as a harmful customary practice and respectfully calls on the National House of Chiefs to revoke the practice as part of our customary law as it violates both the spirit and the letter of the constitution of Ghana.
Communities with high incidence of sexual violence need to be targeted by both the media and civil society organizations to address deeply held beliefs that justify the tolerance of sexual violence. Edutainment initiatives targeting young mothers and fathers, adolescent girls and adolescent girls living with disabilities must provide education on safety measures to protect both girls and boys from sexual abuse.
Traditional rulers need capacity building programmes to support them adjudicate cases from a human rights perspective, as various studies have highlighted their significant role in assisting women and children to access justice. Criminal cases on sexual offences must be referred to law enforcement agencies and the courts which are mandated and have the capacity to handle sexual violence.
FIDA-Ghana therefore appeals for
1. Speedy investigation and prosecution of this case by the police.
2. Material support by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to provide mother and child with social protection.
3. Elimination of customary practices which directly or indirectly promote gender based violence by the National House of Chiefs
4. Support from developmental partners, government ministries, agencies and local governments to build the capacities of chiefs and queen mothers to handle cases with a human rights perspective
Mrs. Afua Addotey
Mrs. Eleanor Barnes-Botchway
FIDA-GHANA Vice President