Human rights is not about the law, but enforcement

Stakeholders at a share and learn event in Accra have asked the government, relevant institutions, and Civil Society Organisations responsible for the protection of human rights to re-strategise to strengthen the enforcement of legislation, policies on human rights.

human rights defender Ms Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh

Internally displaced Persons (IDPs) from Partaker estate demonstrate at the entrance of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja, capital of Nigeria, Sept. 3, 2015. The IDPs took part in a demonstration on Thursday protesting against poor living conditions and eviction from their camp. (Xinhua/Olatunji Obasa)

Participants, who included representatives of Civil Society Groups, Security agencies and the media, said the issue was not about the law, but rather the enforcement, adding that eight years down the line, not much had been achieved with the Domestic Violence Act.

They insisted that new strategies must be adopted by stakeholders to ensure a world free of gender-based violence in society.

The event, which was organised by the Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), in collaboration with OXFAM, both Non-governmental Organisations, was part of activities of 16-day intense activism launched by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection against gender-based violence, specifically focusing on what often pertains at the school setting.

A sub theme: “Your Role as a Stakeholder in Ending Gender Based Violence,” which also fits into the broader one: “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make School Safe for All”, was chosen for the event, to ensure partnership and commitment on the part of society towards achieving the desired outcomes.

Ms Afua Addotey, Board Member of WiLDAF, said the theme addressed the issue of current increases in reported violence against girls and women in their quest for education, particularly, at the basic level, which was a fundamental human right guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, and in other international treaties and Conventions.

She said although Ghana had several laws to deal with human rights abuses, including the Criminal Offences Act, and the Domestic Violence Law, reported cases keep rising.

According to her, girls and young women in Ghana still faced challenges such as early and forced marriages, different forms of school-related gender-based violence, which occur on the way to or within education settings, and non-availability or inadequate sanitary facilities, thus violating their fundamental rights to basic education and shortening it.

He cited the issue of the kidnapping of girls in Chibok in Nigeria by the Boko Haram, the Islamist Separatist group, over a year ago as a patriarchal belief that was closely connected to the perpetration of gender-based violence.

“Oftentimes, some of the religious and cultural taboos against women are ‘legalised’ opportunities to abuse women,” she said.

Ms Abena Oppong Adjin-Boku, a Circuit Court Judge, said the Judicial Service was currently adopting various strategies, including the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system, to ensure speed trials and reconciliation.

She, however, urged prosecutors of domestic violence cases to endeavour to gather enough evidence and also present the required witnesses on time to prevent undue delays.

She also suggested that survivors of such abuses be represented in court by lawyers for proper and effective presentation of their cases and also to sustain interest in the cases.

She, however, cautioned both the police and journalists to desist from over-embellishment of facts of domestic violence cases and their misrepresentation in the media, as well as running of excessive commentary on them, as these may lead to distortions in the case and affect the trials.

Ms Adjin-Boku, however, recommended for the creation of more domestic violence courts across the regions to speed up trials, raising a concern that the current citing of just two of such courts, one each in the whole of Accra and in Kumasi, was woefully inadequate to handle the increasing number of cases that were to be handled each day.

She also advocated for sustained expanded education for both the public and specifically for judges on domestic violence to update them on prevailing trends, so that they could make informed decisions.

She appealed to the government and development partners to support in resourcing the National Commission for Civic Education to be able to effectively play its role as the social educator on issues bordering on sexual and reproductive health.

Chief Superintendent Lawrencia W. Akorlie, Representing the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, encouraged the public to report all such cases to the Unit, reminding them of the fact that it was a criminal offence for any person to shield a perpetrator for any reason.

She said it was unfortunate that most domestic violence cases were not reported, but DOVVSU had developed various strategies of awareness creation whereby it occasionally sent officers to educational institutions and the markets, for closer interaction with students and market women.

This, she said, would be extending such facilities to churches and other religious establishments across the country.

She, however, appealed for more logistics and financial support for DOVVSU to be able to adequately cater for the medical needs of some needy survivors of domestic violence, resource its staff in terms of training, and expand the shelter for those who may need protection from their oppressors.

Ms Patricia Isabella Essel, the Programmes Manager of WiLDAF, said the recommendations gathered would be codified and sent to the various stakeholder institutions for them to incorporate them into their strategies and plan of actions to eliminate domestic violence from the society.


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