Akua Dansua Shatters A Glass Ceiling

Parliament saw some excitement last week. Catherine Afeku stirred up a real hornet’s nest by her statement (which I will

not call unfortunate, save the reference to Angola) on young girls accompanying officials on missions abroad for comfort. To what extent is this true?

All I know is that the President, John Evans Atta Mills, also posed a question about this issue during his encounter with the Press a few weeks ago. And since when did corruption become ‘indiscretion’ Mr President? Are you also asking for evidence before investigating corruption like your predecessor?

Please do not fall into that trap because even the Constitution of Ghana mandates the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate allegations of corruption. It will be rather unfortunate if you wait in the Castle for evidence, and nothing is done about corruption during your tenure. Anyway, let me not digress.

The phenomenon of female escorts is international, and as someone who respects the freedom of association, I will not blame women and men who decide to provide escort services for men and women who demand or need the services, but I will not condone such a practice due to my values and principles.

It goes to the very root of my womanhood and identity, and I really sympathise with girls and women who have to sell their bodies for money to survive due to unemployment in Ghana.

Personally, I find it very demeaning that a relationship should be reduced to a commercial relationship where one partner feels obliged to financially support his girlfriend simply because he is the boyfriend. Selling my body for sex would definitely have killed my soul and is the worst thing that could happen to any woman.

I have learnt that discreet escort services are provided by Ghanaian women. They travel to Nigeria and Dubai and other destinations to provide these services for thousands of dollars. These services are co-ordinated in certain instances by some high-profile Ghanaian women.

I have also learnt that escort girls are provided for some male clients in Ghana. My concern is with the exploitative nature of these services and the effects it has on our fight against sex trafficking in Ghana.

Ghana has unfortunately become an international sex tourism destination with child prostitution involving girls and boys going on unabated. Girls are also being exploited for the local and international pornographic industry. We just got over the Akropong-Akuapim girls pornographic scandal a few months ago.

If we recall, it started with the Swedru girls and pornographic photos in the media about a decade ago. Unsuspecting girls are being lured into acting in pornographic films and they are paid a pittance. A girl at Labadi was paid GH¢100 for acting in a pornographic film, and she has had to move out of her community due to the stigma after the DVD hit the stands.

Sexual harassment is normalised in Ghana and Tanzania and male lecturers consider it their right to demand sex for grades. Researchers at the University of Sussex Centre for Higher Education conducted interviews and found out that ‘hierarchical power relations within universities appear to have naturalised a sexual contract in which some male academics consider it their right to demand sex for grades’.

It is all about power and abuse of power, and it is not surprising that the University of Ghana was more than 50 years old, before it thought of setting up a Gender Studies Centre and adopted a Sexual Harassment Policy. A sexual harassment policy for all tertiary institutions is something the Council for Tertiary Education should have implemented long ago.

Women and sexuality is a big issue in Ghana that has not been thoroughly interrogated. A lot has changed since my generation and my mother’s generation, and this change has been rapid and gone unnoticed. We have different worlds of women in Ghana in small concentric circles independent of each other.

We have the church going ‘good shepherd society/Christian mothers association’ woman, the young Christian woman whose world revolves around the ‘lighthouse-like churches’, the Makola woman who is still a force to reckon with in Ghana, the university and polytechnic ‘highlife society’ trendy girl, the kayayo, the hairdressers, and beauticians, the Muslim woman, I have not even tried to unpack the concentric circles that exist in our Islamic societies in Ghana.

All of these women live in their own worlds and move in their own concentric circles, but one striking similarity in their life is that sometimes, they unfortunately become objects of sex, work, and pleasure. Sexual harassment is real in Ghana and woman are treated like objects of pleasure and work.

And so you can imagine my pleasure when Akua Dansua shattered a glass ceiling and became the Minster of Youth and Sports! My first reaction when I heard the news was, is she now a deputy minister? I thought nothing of it that she was a woman and she was going to head a sports ministry.

It was only when I heard the debates on radio the following morning that I realised that President Mills had done something seemingly unusual by appointing the first female sports minister in Ghana.

Making women look like objects and the preserved gender roles on men and women caused the furore that met Aunty Akua’s appointment.

Akua, congratulations on shattering another glass ceiling!