Fighting discrimination, an affront to Ghana’s development

Fighting violence and discrimination against women is one of the major development concerns of Ghana, and defies the modest gains of her fledgling democracy.

Though the provision of various legislative and policy frameworks had made Ghana to achieve significant strides in the promotion and protection of women’s rights, women continue to face formidable barriers in the enjoyment of their rights because of the gaps between the legal provisions and implementation of the law.

Despite the explicit prohibition of discrimination in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, women suffer various forms of discrimination such as female genital mutilation, Trokosi and other socio-cultural practices.

This is because such constitutional provisions, in some cases, do not have precise provisions to prohibit indirect discrimination to enable women to enjoy their rights and liberties just as men.

The situation is alarming as it appears that minimal attention has been paid to the practical realisation of the principle of equality of men and women such that certain socio- cultural practices, which indirectly contribute to discrimination against women, persist.

According to the United Nations Human Rights, International human rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and includes guarantees for men and women to enjoy their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights equally.

While the human rights machinery reaffirms the principles of non-discrimination and equality, Article 15 (1) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) explicitly provides that States who have ratified the Convention shall accord to women equality with men and Article 2 commits States who have ratified the Convention.

“To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices, which constitute discrimination against women,” it said.

Thirty years since the Convention’s entry into force and despite CEDAW requiring States, who have ratified the Convention to eliminate discrimination against women, Ghana is yet to pass the Affirmative Action bill into law to ensure women’s full participation in the socio-economic governance of the country.

The abuse and violations of the rights of vulnerable persons, especially women and children and persons with disability persist, therefore the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a reminder that most of these promises are yet to be implemented.

It could thus be said that this was what led the First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Lordina Mahama to close down six witches camp in the Northern Region, to allow such women to go back to their families and feel part of the society, however, the stigma from society and even some family relations keeps manifesting against them and the painful reality is that they have to live with it.

Without the appropriate measures and policies put in place to ensure the safety of these women who have been saved from the witch camps, they are likely to be neglected and rejected by families and societies without considering their sufferings and tribulations.

The lack of policies and measures to give women the needed opportunity necessary has made those with disability to suffer more in Ghana although they form the majority of the population.

It depends on the government and policy makers to be on their toes to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to safeguard the rights of women and is therefore important that the First Lady not only get the women out of the camps but to ensure that proper measures are put in place for their safety in their homes.

There should also be active coordination and collaboration amongst various actors working directly or indirectly on enhancing women’s rights with the overall aim of harnessing resources as well as avoiding duplication and wastage of scare resources.

There is therefore the need for government and parliament to make sure that the Constitutional Review Committee, would look at these policies and make women’s right as well as disability rights friendly for the development of the country.