Government has been called upon to take steps to reconcile the laws on consent to sex and law on marriage in Ghana, to help address sexual and reproductive health challenges of adolescents.
The Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana (YHFG), a youth development organisation made the call and explained that the disparities in the laws made it easier for people to take advantage of vulnerable teenage girls.
It said the situation had also contributed to rising cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the country and the government needed to review the laws to ensure that the age of consent to sex was the same as the legal age of marriage.
Mr Albert Apotele Nyaaba, the Project Officer, YHFG, made the appeal in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, at a workshop for journalists on the implementation of adolescent reproductive health project.
The project, dubbed, “Evidence to action project: sexual health education (SHEAP) project, is being implemented by YHFG with financial support from the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU).
Currently, Ghana’s Criminal Offences Act of 1960, Act 29, pegs the age of sexual consent at 16 while the Children ‘s Act of 1998, Act 560 provided the minimum of 18 years for marriage.
The differences in the two legal provisions, Mr Nyaaba noted, created contradiction and inconsistencies that create room for teenagers to be exploited and appealed to the government to take the necessary steps to reconcile the two laws to achieve reproductive justice for teenagers particularly girls.
He said, “The two-year gap in these laws is one of the causes of child marriage because the girl less than 18 years gets pregnant and cannot marry. So it is either the parents pushed her for marriage or the girl herself went out for marriage voluntarily and this has implication on the health and economic life of the girls.
“So it is important for law makers to reconcile these laws so that people do not take advantage of these people and impregnate them,” he added.
The SHEAP is aimed at producing data and evidence to support the government through the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service, to adopt and mainstream Sexual and Reproductive Health Education into school curriculum.
The move is to help address challenges such as teenage pregnancies, child marriage and Sexually Transmitted Infections that hinder the proper growth and development of adolescents.