The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) has pledged to partner the media to expose the horrible social phenomenon of Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM).
This practice in which underaged girls are forced into marriage, cut short the education of many girls, the NCCE said, was preventing a large segment of the girl-child population from contributing effectively to the advancement of the nation.
The Chairperson of the commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei, who gave the assurance, said already 180 media practitioners drawn from the three northern regions, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Western and Central regions had been re-oriented to the ‘’modern day slavery’’ and the health hazards associated with the practice to help the media to be in the forefront of the fight against this social menace.
Mrs Osei gave the assurance when she opened a day’s sensitisation workshop for the last batch of 60 media practitioners drawn from the Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta regions at Akosombo in the Eastern Region on Monday.
She explained that apart from forming an alliance, the media and the NCCE ought to use the opportunity to engage the perpetrators of this outmoded custom and educate them on the implications on the communities as well as the traditional authorities.
She announced that the NCCE had undertaken a baseline survey on forced marriages to regularly update the media with statistics available on the effects and repercussions of early forced marriages on the society as well as the health hazards associated with the practice.
She disclosed that the NCCE had drawn a series of workshops for traditional authorities of the legal punishment that could be meted out to perpetrators of such customs and traditional practices that dehumanised people, especially the girl-child, preventing her from attaining good standard of living.
The Eastern Regional Director of Plan Ghana, Mr Kofi Debrah, who spoke on the topic: ‘’Child Early Forced Marriage in Ghana, an Overview,’’ said the causes of accelerated divorce cases in Ghana could be attributed to forced marriages with its attendant social problems such as broken homes, single parenthood and ‘streetism.’
He said other social problems were increased number of unskilled labour as well as social vices such as prostitution and increased infant and maternal mortality which were the worst forms of development indicators, no matter how the economy of the country was booming.
The Executive Director of Legal Resource Centre in Accra, Ms Daphne Lariba Nabila, who spoke on ‘’State of the Law on Child Early Forced Marriage,’’ said parents and perpetrators could be charged under the criminal law for misdemeanour if they consented to forced marriages, which could carry maximum jail term of three months with hard labour.
She also explained that under the human trafficking law, a person could be charged with abetting human trafficking if the person knew of others engaged in human trafficking but failed to report to the appropriate authorities such as the law enforcement agencies for action to be taken against the perpetrators.
She, therefore, urged the media to help the law enforcement agencies to seek the well-being of the children in the society by coming up with exposé of the activities that are inimical to the development of Ghanaian children as well as reporting the perpetrators to law enforcement agencies.
She called on NCCE to lobby Parliament to raise the sex age of consent from 16 years as contained in the criminal code to 18 years to conform with the constitution.
A communique issued after the one-day workshop called on the media, as part of its social responsibility, to provide space to discuss issues of child forced marriage.
The communique also urged the NCCE to lobby stakeholders so that in the case of defilement for instance, which the law does not allow to be settled out of court, early forced marriages (which were criminal under the laws) should also not be settled quietly in the homes but in the court.