Mr Jacob Achulo, the Ashanti Regional Director of the Department of Social Welfare, on Monday advocated stiffer punishment for parents who force their teenagers into early marriages.
He said 27 percent of women in the region were forced into marriages before 18 years, a menace prevalent in Zongo communities in Sekyere Afram Plains and Ejura Sekyeredumasi districts in the Region.
Mr Achulo was speaking at a one-day workshop on reducing child, early and forced marriages in Kumasi being attended by about 70 journalists and media practitioners drawn from Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo regions.
It was Organised by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) in collaboration the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFAID), through the Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF).
Mr Achulo noted with regret that the stipulated penalty of GHC500 penalty or one year imprisonment placed on parents or relatives who forced their teenagers into marriages was not stiff enough, considering the trauma the girls go through. He said some outmoded traditional practices and values practiced in the name of culture, which tended to affect the child both physically and emotionally, ought not to be tolerated.
Mr Achulo said the prosecution of culprits of force marriages was sometimes slow and tended to thwart efforts to eradicate the menace and appealed to the police and the judiciary to speed the trial of such cases.
Mr Akumoah Boateng, Director of Programmes at the NCCE, said concerted efforts were needed to help control child marriages in the country.
Reverend Father Patrick Osei-Poku, a representative from the Justice and Peace Commission at the Catholic Secretariat, Kumasi Archdiocese, said civilization was measured by how society regarded human rights and dignity.
He appealed to Ghanaians to respect human rights by helping to eradicate violations and all forms of abused meted especially on children.