The Central Regional Office of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) has charged parents to lead the fight frontiers against child marriage and hammer home its adverse effects on children.
The practice, DOVVSU said, had become common among some families in the region, regrettably with most of them engaging in informal ceremonies to hand over their girl children to their abusers because of stigma.
Detective Sergeant Richard Boadi-Twum, an Investigator with DOVVSU, said parents remained key in the fight against child marriage, teenage pregnancies, and all forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
He was speaking on the need to end child marriages at the opening of a three-day stakeholder community engagement programme designed by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) with support from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
The stakeholder engagement formed part of ‘End Child Marriage’ project commenced in 2019 to sensitize all including parents and students on the dangers of teen pregnancy and child marriage.
The sensitization programme, which brought together Chiefs, parents and other relevant Stakeholders, was held in Abura, Apewosika and the Abakam, all suburbs of Cape Coast in the Central Region.
Though he did not give figures, Sergeant Boadi-Twum indicated that issues of child marriage were very persistent in some Ghanaian communities, adding that the practice was now done in secrecy to avoid public criticisms.
“It is a crime to be a part of this practice, a child must be made to live as a child, they must be made to enjoy their childhood, marriage is a skill and children need to grow and learn to love,” he added.
He urged parents not to shun their wards or force them to cohabit with the men who impregnate them just to avoid societal stigma.
Speaking on teenage pregnancies, Mrs. Alexina Juliet Mensah, a Midwife at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) hospital, noted that having to carry a child as a teenager was a threat to one’s education and empowerment.
She said adolescent girls stood the risk of pregnancy complications, low birth weight (LBW), infant mortality urinary tract infections and acute pyelonephritis.
“The best you can do for yourself is to learn to say no, choose to abstain and concentrate on the bright future ahead of you,” she advised.
Togbui Jagger Kponovi II, the Chief of Abakam, told girls not to accept marriages against their will and to also learn to report any incident to the police.
He also urged parents to teach their wards what to expect as adolescents so that they could make informed choices.
Nana Kwadwo Addei, the Chief of Abura, pledged his commitment to advocating the course of ending child marriages and urged all, particularly parents, to do same as they were the key actors
He further thanked the PPAG for being thoughtful and extending its education to the Abura community, adding that more of such programmes should be done to help achieve zero child marriage in the area.