Human rights lawyer wants Domestic Violence Act amended

General News of Friday, 2 January 2015


A human rights and public interest lawyer, Francis Xavier Sosu is calling for an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act to enable the state fine or issue custodial sentences to parents who do not put their children through formal education.

Reacting to a feature on educational right violation on Joy News TV’s flagship human rights programme, Eyes Right, Francis Sosu said it is high time the state showed some seriousness in respecting the right to education of every child, which he said is tied to all other basic rights provided for in the constitution.

In the story, a 12-year-old Benedict and his brother are made to drop out of a private school for non-payment of school fees. Together with two other siblings they are left in charge of an oyster business all by themselves instead of a promise to be enrolled in a government school.

The constitution of Ghana makes at least basic education free and compulsory but many children of school going age find themselves out of school mostly due to economic situation or financial hardships cited by their parents.

Benedict complained to his mother that his work at school receives no attention from his teacher and was therefore asked to stay home.

“If I do exercise or class text, my teacher will said [say] are [do] my parents think they are a fool [fools] so that they will be teaching me and my parents will not pay them? So they fail to mark my work,” he lamented.

At home, he and his siblings are central to their mother’s oyster business which rakes in a substantial amount of money. Ironically two of them are out of school because of money.

His elder brother tells Joy News, they seldom do the oyster business except when the mother is not available. But it appears the mother is unavailable almost all week. When this was put to him, he insisted they only stay at home when there are oysters to process.

Headteacher at First Class School where they attend school confirms the parents have not shown enough commitment to educating their children because they could still go to school if only the parents will negotiate with the school. “We need the money to run our institution; [but] we cannot say the parents are interested in paying our money to us…we threatened them and said we are going to sack them but we never sacked,” he said.

Their mother was unavailable anytime Joy News visited Ada, where they reside, an aunt however said efforts to get the parents to send them back to school have all proved futile. She also disagrees with the notion that the children are being overworked.

Lawyer Francis Sosu said per the Children’s Act, engaging in chores to help parents is not wrong if only it does not take precedence over education and is not hazardous to the children involved.

In a case such as this, he says the Constitution empowers any willing individual to press criminal charges against the parents. But such court actions seldom happen in Ghana.

“If you read Section 8 of the Children’s Act, it says that no person shall deprive a child access to education…if you do…our laws have not criminalized those things but it would entitle the child to an action against you. If anybody would stand in either locus parentis or as a next friend of the child to take it to court, you could have an action against you. And in many events, it can, it can in appropriate circumstance ground criminal conviction particularly when deprivation leads to some psychological and emotional abuse then it can become domestic violence. And under the Domestic Violence Act, a child can secure criminal conviction against the mother,” the lawyer stressed.

“There should be some penalty that could make people feel that look, the state is serious if we are supposed to take our children to school and we refuse to take them to school, we can be fined. Maybe you may not be put in prison but fined,” he added.

Lawyer Sosu challenges the social welfare and related agencies within Ada to be proactive in protecting children like Benedict. He is also cautioning all parents to be mindful of charges which could even be criminal for not taking their children to school.

Eyes Right is a constitution-based programme aimed at educating the public about their rights and responsibilities as enshrined in Ghana’s Constitution as well as other conventions the country is signatory to.