Mr Alfred Mbinglo, Director for Research and Counseling, RECFAM, noted that children as young as ten years had been pushed into early or forced marriages, depriving them of their rights to education and dignity.
He attributed the increasing cases of early and forced marriages to poverty and lack of enforcement of legislative framework; and called on law enforcement agencies as well as traditional leaders to join in the swift enforcement of the laws.
Mr Mbingo gave the advice at a forum in Pibila, a farming community near Damanko in the Nkwanta North District in the Volta Region.
“Strict adherence to traditional and religious doctrines also plays a major role in Ghana’s high rates of child marriage,” he added.
The occasion was used to unveil hotlines: “MTN 024 240 6544 or VODAFONE 020 019 8548,” that would enable people to report cases of force marriage in the district for prompt attention.
The Nkwanta North and South districts topped the district distribution in the Volta region, with 55 and 23 per cent respectively of reported cases of forced marriages.
Most of these teenage girls are compelled into marriages in an exchange between families and in some cases as payment of debts.
The RECFAM has therefore in partnership with the Government, Ghana Police Service and Canada launched a project aimed at identifying victims, rescuing and supporting them to regain their rights.
The RECFAM project is also focusing on girls’ education, public sensitization and education, as well as intensification of law enforcement.
Mr Clement Kpega, an Officer with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice in charge of Nkwanta North and South, said the World Vision, Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit and Social Welfare in the area were besieged with overwhelming complaints of forced marriages and called on chiefs to partner initiatives to reduce the menace.
According to Mr Kpega, people were adopting measures to suppress the reportage of incidents of force marriages by running to other areas including Togo to continue with the practice.
The 2012 population census report indicated that out of a total of 3,254,007 children aged twelve years and above, 176,103, representing 5.4 per cent were married.
The UNFPA-NCCE report shows Volta, Brong Ahafo, Upper East and West regions were leading the regional distribution with more than one in every four girls going into early or forced marriages.