‘Strictly implement laws banning obnoxious cultural practices’

The Brong Ahafo Regional Coordinator of the Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mrs Setina Aboagye, has called for a strict implementation of laws that ban all obnoxious cultural practices.

She said traditions, such as the one that bars widows from engaging in economic activity until 40 days after the burial of their husbands, and other social norms and practices that drive unequal outcomes for women and girls, were an affront to the fundamental rights of women, describing it as a discriminatory act that threatened the very existence of women.

DSP Aboagye was addressing a conference on women’s rights for women in mining communities at Esaase in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region on the theme: “End violence against women in mining communities in Ghana.”

Pilot project

A pilot project which will run for five months in line with measures to end violence against women in mining communities in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region, will be extended to other communities after the period.

It is being organised by Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in collaboration with DOVVSU, with sponsorship from the Elizabeth Welber and Global Greengrants Funds from the United States of America (USA).

Acording to the United Nations (UN) Women, discrimination against women, hampering development, persists around the globe, as attitudes perpetuating violence against women persist, irrespective of existing laws.

With the amendment of the Criminal Code of 1998 to criminalise harmful widowhood rites and ritual servitude, now the law courts can interpret this law to pass judgement to such cases.

 In addition, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides constitutional protection for all persons before the law.

 Section 17 prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.

Despite these, there are still several discriminatory social practices in prevailing cultural attitudes and societal codes evoked in the name of traditions and religion, which undermine the dignity and rights of women.

Examples of negative practices

 Examples of these include witchcraft, widowhood rites, Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage, widow inheritance, girl child betrothals and unintended consequences of bride price etc. which do not guarantee the liberty/freedom of women and render females secondary humans.

The issue of access to and control of land in some communities is still a limiting factor to women in agricultural enterprises.

DSP Aboagye also accused women of being their own enemies since some of them championed the implementation of dehumanising cultural practices, and urged women, especially those whose spouses are still alive, to lead the campaign in their respective communities to stamp out such practices.

The Executive Director of LEG,  Mr Richard Adjei-Poku, encouraged women to sacrifice for their children to pursue higher education rather than spend their money on material things such as funeral cloths.

Using himself as an example, he said education was the only tool which could transform and add value to a person’s life, and not the number of cloths one had.

Beneficiary communities

The 12 beneficiary communities are Esaase, Manhyia, Aboabo, Tetekaaso, Gyeninso, Akataniase, Bonteso, Mpatuamu, Teterem, Amanchia, Kobeng and Assuowin, all in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region.

In separate remarks, some of the participants spoke about the ban on illegal mining and indicated that since it was the main economic activity at Esaase, it could lead to temporary hardships among the people.

They also spoke about maltreatment and irresponsible parenting by their husbands, some of whom abandoned them once they got pregnant, and called for a positive change in attitude in that respect.

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