Mr Kwasi Oppong Ababio, Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Sunyani, on Thursday stressed that the Constitution of Ghana did not permit child marriage.
He said research had shown that such marriages were done under duress, emphasising they were implemented without the consent or free will of either the two parties or one of them.
The MCE, therefore, urged stakeholders responsible for ensuring the end of the canker, to act now to save the nation from that practice.
Mr Ababio was addressing about 40 participants, drawn from Sunyani Municipal and Sunyani West District Assemblies at the opening of a two-day workshop organized by the Sunyani Municipal Directorate of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) in Sunyani, on the theme “Stop Child Early/Forced Marriages Now.”
The participants were drawn from the traditional council, the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, the Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Community Development.
Others were Assembly members, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Office of the Chief Imam, the Department of Children, the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Media.
Ababio said available statistics indicated that one out of three girls in developing areas of the world were married before reaching the age of 18, adding that an estimated one in nine girls were also married before age 15, in developing countries.
He added that a survey by the organization of Parliamentarians for Global Action, Ghana, also revealed that “Ghana is one of the countries with the highest child marriage prevalence rates globally”.
Ghana Demographic Health Survey in 2008 also revealed that 25 per cent of women married between the ages of 20 and 25, “were married or were in a union before attaining the age of 18”, the MCE emphasised.
Mr Ababio noted that the consequences of early and forced child marriages were enormous, and buttressed the point with UNICEF Report of 2009 0n the State of the World’s Children which stated that maternal deaths related to pregnancy and children were an important component of mortality for girls aged 15-19 worldwide, accounting for 70,000 deaths each year.
He said some of the root causes of forced and early child marriages included poverty, gender inequalities, traditions that were gender bias, religion and parental irresponsibility.
Mr Ababio, therefore, called for not only the promulgation of strict laws against the canker, but those responsible for ensuring that the laws worked performed their functions accordingly.
The MCE urged Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Media also to contribute their quota to intensify their advocacy role to ensure the stoppage of the menace in society.
Mr Ababio expressed expectation that by the end of the two-day meeting, stakeholders would come up with better and improved strategies, to fight “this inhuman practice, and promote child rights and development in the country”.