Women lawyers say no to gender-based violence in Techiman

A workshop on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Ghana organised by AWLA has highlighted the need to curb the menace in the country.

The executive director of the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), Edna Kuma, has cautioned perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) to desist from this, as it could lead to severe legal consequences.

Mrs Kuma said that a civil case of rape – one of the forms of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) committed most frequently – can land the perpetrator in prison and face a sentence of 25 years in severe cases, or 500 penalty units (GHC6,000).

She gave this warning in Techiman during a stakeholders workshop organised by AWLA to draw participants’ attention to the need to stop sexual and gender-based violence in Ghana.

Too many abuses

The AWLA sensitisation workshop is a three-year project with funding from Oxfam and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF). The project seeks to make Ghanaians, particularly those with little or no idea about domestic violence, aware of sexual and gender-based violence and to help find ways to address the challenges posed by SGBV effectively.

They included members of the clergy, representatives from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, Legal Aid and heads of various schools.

Briefing the gathering, Edna Kuma said, “There are too many sexual abuses against children and women in the communities, in schools and workplaces.

“So the sponsors of this programme decided to implement various mechanisms to create awareness among the children themselves and the communities to know that what they are doing is a crime …

“Most parents don’t know their responsibilities and children don’t know how to handle these issues.”

She said: “We will continue to the various communities to ensure the children know what their rights are.”

First-degree felony

Participants were taken through the concept of SGBV, international and local laws on SGBV and how to address the menace. In discussions at the workshop participants learned that rape – a common form of SGBV – is considered a first-degree felony and can attract a sentence of up to 25 years’ imprisonment.

The sensitisation workshop also covered unnatural carnal knowledge of animals as well as illegal customary servitude, which equally attract severe penalties.

Edna Kuma highlighted some of the health effects of SGBV and the need to counsel victims to remedy its effects. “Sexual assaults can cause both physical injury and profound emotional trauma such as nightmares, depression, inability to concentrate and humiliation,” she said.

Mrs Kuma said research has shown that rape survivors face the risk of sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and that early sexual victimisation could also leave women less skilled. 

“Early sexual victimisation could also expose victims to excessive drug and alcohol use, prostitution and teen pregnancy,” she said.

Participants promised to educate their community members to help reduce SGBV.

Dauda Zul-kiful, Techiman

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