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As the world marks the 2nd annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict and World Refugee Day, Hope For Future Generations – a Ghanaian NGO and her partners – the Ghana Refugee Board, and Palladium is alerting the government and the people of
Ghana to the realisation that sexual violence is a serious problem in our society that requires urgent attention.
Giving urgent attention to issues of sexual violence will help save innocent lives. At a time when the confidence of citizens in the police and judicial system has been questioned and is very topical in the public discourse as confirmed by Ghana’s new Chief Justice designate during her vetting in parliament last week, we find this year’s theme “Preventing Sexual Violence Crimes through Justice and Deterrence” very timely.
The Day and the Theme chosen offer us an opportunity to take stock of the progress that the nation has made in terms of providing justice for sexual violence victims and making a statement to perpetrators that such acts are intolerable in our society.
Although Ghana has not recorded sexual violence within the context of conflict and civil wars as witnessed in neighbouring countries, there has been several media reportage on various types of sexual violence including domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, forced marriage, and defilement with women, girls, and children being the most affected. Data obtained from the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service and hospitals across the country indicates that sexual violence crimes have increased in many communities across the country. Additionally, content analysis of media reports over the past 365 days clearly indicates that sexual violence is a canker in our society and the perpetrators of some of these heinous crimes are people that you would least suspect – Pastors, Teachers, husbands, Doctors, Parents, and others in positions of trust.
Available data also indicates that reported cases of sexual violence among the refugee communities in Ghana is also on the increase. However, these are just the reported cases. There is no telling how many more of these crimes go unreported and how many victims are suffering silently as research indicates that Ghanaian women face barriers in reporting violence. These obstacles are rooted in a cultural belief that domestic and sexual violence is a private matter that should be addressed outside of the criminal justice system. A public health report shows that 33 to 37 percent of women in Ghana have experienced intimate partner violence in the course of their relationship (this includes physical, sexual, and emotional violence whilst in Ghanaian schools, studies found that 14 percent of girls are victims of sexual abuse and 52 percent have experienced gender-based violence (BMC Public Health Journal, 2016).
These numbers are likely understated, as girls tend not to report crimes for fear of reprisal. Even for the crimes that have been reported, to what extent have the victims and their families received the justice that the so urgently deserve?
As the world marks International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in conflict and Refugee Day on the theme “With Refugees”, we want to draw the nation’s attention and pledge our continuing solidarity with those who have been displaced as a result of conflict in their homelands. We also stand in solidarity with families and victims of all forms of sexual violence and we call on all stakeholders especially those involved in the judicial and justice process to do everything possible to ensure that that there is public confidence in the system as we work towards the total elimination of all forms of sexual violence from our society.