Sixteen-year-old, Vincentia Aglama, and her mother relocated to the Eastern Region from a community in the Ga-South Municipality in the Greater Accra Region after a rape incident.
Aside from their inability to pay for the medical examination, transport, and other related costs, the Aglama’s could no longer bear the threats from the perpetuator and disdain meted out by some community members.
The action of the community folks was occasioned by Vincentia mother’s initial stance of reporting the rape case to the police. She, however, rescinded her decision to go to the Police. The family’s decision to relocate means Vincentia could not complete her education because she could not stay to write her final Basic Education Certificate Examination.
Her situation is just one of the many under-reported cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) young girls and women face. It lays credence to World Health Organisation’s appraisal that 1 in every 3 women globally is subjected to violence, with 35 % having experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner or someone else. Recent data from 106 countries in the global report on goal five of the Sustainable Development Goals shows that, despite global progress made to implement gender-responsive budgeting, gaps still remain in-country efforts to establish a comprehensive and transparent tracking system for monitoring the budget.
Just as the alleged rapist in the case of Vincentia, violent acts are often done with impunity. It is a major contributing factor to the violence being perpetrated or repeated, Madam Diana Asante, the Girl Child Education Officer of the Ga South Municipal, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that many of the GBV cases were not reported due to parents/care givers’ inability to pay bills associated with the prosecutorial process including hospital examination bills and cost of transport.
“I hear of similar cases during my periodic engagement with these schoolgirls on sexual harassment. It is a serious issue that needs urgent action because men are worrying young girls,” she said. Often, she disclosed that these sexual abuses go on during occasions such as funerals, festival celebrations, naming ceremonies, and ‘night jams.
The Laws and implementation challenges
Susan Aryeetey, the Executive Director of the International Federation of Women Lawyers Ghana, said the legal framework of the country, which includes the 1992 Constitution of Ghana; the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29) 1960; the Criminal Code (Amended) Act, 1998 (Act 554); the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560); and the Domestic Violence Act, 2007(Act 732) makes gender-based violence a criminal offense.
She stated that the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) has been given the mandate to, among its numerous functions, provide free services to members of the public; protect the rights of the vulnerable against all forms of abuse be it physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, socio-economic, or harmful cultural practices.
A study titled, “Falling through the Cracks”, conducted by ActionAid Ghana, revealed that women and children experience violence every day and have difficulties reporting or accessing justice due to systemic challenges. The study notes that it is almost impossible for survivors of violence to report crimes. To access the formal justice system, a survivor must first battle the social norms and find the courage to report the case.
“Thereafter, she faces the challenge of having the financial resources to pay for the costs of transport and medical examinations. Survivors often are charged an average of GHC200.00 for medical examination, which is out of pocket for most of them.
Call for Resourcing the Domestic Violence Fund
The Women’s Rights and Campaigns Advisor of ActionAid Ghana, Margaret Brew-Ward in an interview said although the existence of a Domestic Violence Fund should be helping survivors cover the costs of medical examinations, it is not serving the purpose due to the limited funds. She recalled that since the initial seed capital of GH¢50,000.00 about eleven years ago, there has been no further allocation to the Fund.
Margaret Brew-Ward stated that due to lack of funds, the Domestic Violence Secretariat (DVS) has not been to play its role properly, including supporting survivors access justice, providing shelter, rehabilitating and reintegrating victims.
“This is not the best because when cases are not followed through to the end, perpetrators are emboldened to repeat such acts. If a person is punished for wrongdoing, it serves as a deterrent to others.”
As the world celebrates 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, Ms. Brew-Ward who is the Women’s Rights and Campaigns Manager of ActionAid Ghana is appealing to the Government to make provisions for the Domestic Violence Fund.
She proposes an amount of GH¢1.5million annually to the Fund to enable the Domestic Violence Secretariat (DVS) to adequately implement its mandate.
“We are aware of some efforts at the governmental level to engage private firms to support the Fund through corporate social responsibility mechanisms, which is laudable, however, the primary responsibility of Government as the owner of the Fund cannot be overemphasized.
Therefore, she calls on the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection to ensure that the Government’s statutory annual allocation to the fund is honoured at all times.
The timely budgetary allocation to the Domestic Violence Fund could have cushioned the suffering of many gender-based survivors to pursue justice such as the Aglama’s and could have prevented them from relocating and disrupting the education of Vincentia.