Ms Maribel Akuorkor Okine, the Western Regional Director of the Department of Gender, says child marriage is a crime and punishable by law.
She said section 109 of the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29) criminalizes compulsion of marriage where it states that “whoever by duress cause a person to marry against his/her will, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and the punishment is a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.”
She, in this regard, called on affected individuals to report any such incident to the police, the Minister/Ministry of Gender, District Girl’s Education Unit and Committees on Child Protection, among others.
Ms Okine was speaking at an engagement with Imams and opinion leaders on community-based advocacy sessions on child marriage to serve as a reminder on the dangers of child marriage to the girl child and its relational effect on their communities and national development.
The meeting, which was a collaboration between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Canadian Government under the auspices of the Western Regional Coordinating Council (WRCC) was for participants to brainstorm the possible practical solutions to child marriage within their communities.
She explained that the meeting was to strengthen their knowledge to enable them to speak out as advocates for children and drawing on the teachings of their faith to promote respect for children and their rights, including abuses that emanate out of child marriage.
Ms Okine stressed the need for strong partnership, among communities and opinion leaders in curbing some harmful practices including child marriage in their homes and communities to end child marriage in Ghana.
She mentioned poverty, insecurity, negligence, truancy, neglect of parental responsibility, inadequate implementation of the laws on child marriage, low education, discrimination against the girl child, cultural practices and teenage pregnancy as some of the factors that lead to child marriages in Ghana.
Such marriages, she said, often lead to early divorce, broken homes, hardships on families, health issues that put pressure on health facilities, domestic violence, under-development of talents, lack of education, poverty and other potentials, and even death.
Dr Ernest Obeng, Physician Assistant (medical) at the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital (ENRH) who spoke on the health implication on child marriage lamented that the pelvis of victims may be immature and not ready to accommodate pregnancy thereby leading to stretches which may damage the womb.
He announced that the effects of child marriage could lead to acute urinary infections (AUIs) miscarriages and later pregnancy implications like birth injuries, premature labour or prolonged labour.
Dr Obeng, therefore, called on parents to strive to provide the needs of their wards, give them equal access to education as their male counterparts, equal access to health, keeping an eye on them and building relationships with them to identify with their challenges.