End ‘traditional’ interference in sexual abuse cases and punish offenders more severely:A child is raped in the west. Though the system is not perfect, her emergency needs are immediately catered for by Social Services, specialised Child Protection/Safeguarding Police, the ambulance service and hospital staff. She undergoes a formal medical examination wherein bodily samples are taken to verify the rapist’s identity. If she is related to the rapist, a Police Protection Order is sought to take her away from the family home and ensure her safety. The alleged perpetrator is arrested, tried and eventually imprisoned once proven guilty. The penalty can be as severe as life imprisonment. The child receives therapeutic support to cope with her traumatic ordeal.
A child is raped in Ghana. The police may not be automatically involved. Her recourse to medical and legal assistance is wholly dependent upon her family’s economic and social status. More often than not, her family will be offered a small payment by the rapist to ensure his anonymity. Often, he will escape justice altogether. Adult victims may be forced to marry their perpetrators. No concrete family, social or therapeutic support is given.
According to ‘The Treatment of Consent in Sexual Assault Law in Ghana,’ “Ghanaian customary law considers rape to be unlawful. However, there are customs, practices and beliefs in Ghanaian society which influence how rape cases are handled in the Ghanaian legal system.” In a recent case village chiefs consulted their gods who are said to have determined that the alleged perpetrator was innocent, prohibiting the mother from seeking justice for the rape of her child! In another case a 2 year old girl was sexually abused and bled to death from her injuries: the case was not publicised. The perpetrator has not been apprehended! Another 4 year old girl is battling for her life after being raped by an 18 year old man!
It is time for customary thinking to be divorced and forcibly extricated from the legal arena! The voice of local deities should be given no audience within legal matters! It’s also time that the antiquated term ‘defilement’ that further taints the reputation of the victim, is replaced with a more appropriate term that puts the onus squarely on the actions of the perpetrator alone!
If the state won’t handle matters satisfactorily, let the people who are concerned enough to effect permanent change lead the way! The current system is clearly failing our children. Let not the deaths and suffering of child rape victims be in vain. Let’s put this matter firmly at the top of the agenda! Every child is significant irrespective of wealth or lack thereof! Let a fresh campaign begin and succeed where others have failed! Child abuse can only be satisfactorily eradicated and minimised when it is challenged! No more ignorance and avoidance! No more cover ups and bribes! No more abuse and violence! #Nomoresilence!