President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says violence against women and girls out of unequal power dynamics poses major challenge to national development.
He, therefore, underscored the need for concerted efforts towards tackling domestic violence to mitigate the negative effects on individuals and societies.
President Akufo-Addo said this in a speech read on his behalf at the commissioning and handing over of the first ever Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) One-stop Centre in Accra.
The DOVVSU One-Stop Centre is a state-of-the-art -facility that is expected to enhance access to justice, psycho-social services, and other services for survivors of domestic violence.
It will provide services, including investigations, social welfare, legal aid, clinical psychology, counselling, and court services.
The facility also has a space for the setting up of a forensic laboratory.
President Akufo-Addo said the eradication or reduction of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) was critical to nation-building, hence Government’s commitment to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls in line with Sustainable Development Goal Five.
He said the Centre, which was designed to avoid secondary victimisation, and the establishment of two child-friendly courts by the Chief Justice with funding from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Ghana, also showed the country’s commitment to ensuring justice for children.
The President said the country’s commitment to the protection of women and children from violence was evident in its ratification of international treaties such as the Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (ACT 732), Children’s Act 1998 (ACT 560), and the subsequent incorporation into the laws.
“As a gender activist and a one-time Chairperson of the African Union’s Committee on Gender and Development, I fully endorse the Ghana Police Service’s agenda to expand the one-stop Centre to all other parts of the country,’’ he said and commended individuals and organisations that supported the completion of the building of the Centre.
Mr Kwesi Anin- Yeboah, the Chief Justice, in a speech read on his behalf, noted that due to some societal and cultural norms, Sexual and Gender-Based violent crimes were often treated as “private” family matters, against the law.
He said the Judicial Service had made several efforts to help curtail the incidence of Gender-Based Violence in society such as the establishment of specialised courts aimed at ensuring effective and efficient administration of justice for specific types of cases or offenses.
The Chief Justice said an example was the establishment of the first Gender Based Violence Court (Circuit Court 5, Accra), which commenced operations in January 2009, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Flagship Programme on Gender Justice.
Mr Anin-Yeboah said in December 2018, the first Child Friendly Model Court was established in Accra to provide a conducive atmosphere for the child who was a victim, witness, or offender to give accurate testimony without fear or intimidation.
He said all regions in Ghana had those courts.
Mr Charles Abani, United Nations Resident Coordinator, applauded the efforts of Government, especially the Police Service, the Judiciary, and all partners, in addressing the needs of survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
He said interventions, including those supported by Global Canada and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with the UNFPA Orange Call Centre and, especially the Domestic Violence Unit in the Gender Ministry and the BoaAme App, were ‘‘making a real difference’’ in the lives of children and women.
Mr Abani appealed to Government to allocate funds to cover the cost of medical exams on survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and to eliminate the practice where victims were asked to cover travel costs for police and doctors to go to the court regarding their cases.
Mr George Akuffo-Dampare, the IGP, said the Centre would not be one to break up families and relationships but to unite and sustain healthy ones and underscored the need to use preventive approach to handle and minimise issues of domestic violence and Gender-Based Violence in the country.