General News of Friday, 30 January 2015
Some chiefs and male adults in some northern parts of Ghana are forcing young girls into child marriages. These men have taken to selecting child brides at funerals and festivals.
This was revealed at a workshop organized by the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection as it begins consultations to formulate a strategic policy to eliminate child marriages in Ghana.
The country has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world.
During festivals and funerals, any man of means can point at a girl, regardless of her age, and claim her as his wife. The girls in question are not given a choice in the matter and in most cases, neither are their parents.
A women and children’s advocate, Roslyn Obeng-Ofori revealed that there are some instances where chiefs have as many as twenty (20) child brides.
The Ministry of Gender and Social Protection, in a bid to curb these unlawful marriages, is seeking to work with Civil Society and other organisations in order to locate and prosecute such cases.
A three-year project is expected to deepen awareness and education on the problem, find sustainable solutions, and review punishment meted out to perpetrators.
However, interest groups already foresee challenges with Government’s efforts.
A judge at the gender court in Accra, Rita Agyemang Budu, raised concerns over the success of the project, as reporting of such cases is extremely low.
In all her years as a judge, she says, no case of child marriages has come before her.
“Most of the cases don’t find their way to court. I haven’t even encountered one child marriage because these child wives lack capacity to come to court. No one will even point out the perpetrators”, she lamented, adding that the hands of the courts are tied.
The question remains whether or not the Ministry’s efforts will be successful in a culture which seemingly shields perpetrators of this crime.