Traditional rulers institute fines to stem child marriage

Henceforth, any parent in the Jirapa District who gives out his or her daughter who is less than 18 years for marriage would be reported to the security agencies for action to be taken against them.

Any person who also abducts, elopes or impregnates a girl, less than 18 years would be fined 1,500 Ghana Cedi, a ram and two bottles of schnapps, payable to the traditional rulers, of which the money would be given to the girl to cater for herself.

In addition, all social activities in the communities would now be performed from 14hours till 1800hours and all children less than 18 years would be expected to be indoors by 2000hours.

Girls who were also in school before they got married and became pregnant would be monitored and after their delivery, they would be sent back to school to continue with their education.

Ten traditional rulers in the Jirapa Traditional Council said Jirapa District was fast gaining notoriety in the child marriage practice and therefore, they would not sit aloof and allow such an unfortunate practice to go on.

“Our girls will have no future and we as parents and rulers will suffer the consequences hence, the drastic measures introduced to help control the practice in the District, which we are committed to do”.

The traditional rulers raised those concerns at a day’s training workshop on early child marriage in Jirapa.

The Department of Gender under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organised the workshop to equip the participants with the relevant knowledge on child marriage issues.

Traditional rulers, queen mothers, religious leaders, and representatives of civil society organisations attended the forum, which was on the theme: “Early child marriage-the role of the traditional/religious and opinion leaders”.

The traditional rulers called for constant education and incorporation of all bylaws instituted by traditional rulers into the district assembly’s bylaws, to make them more workable and mandatory to all the people.

Other participants called for the intensification of public education on child marriage and the enforcement of laws governing child marriage.

They suggested the formation of child protection teams in all communities in the District, while counselling units were established in all schools to educate adolescent students.

The participants appealed to politicians and other stakeholders to stop interfering in defilement, rape and child marriage issues, especially when such cases were reported to the police by government officials.

Madam Charity Batuure, Acting Upper West Regional Director of the Department of Gender, said her outfit would continue to give the stakeholders the necessary support through capacity building for them to continue to be campaigners against child marriage in their communities and beyond.

She appealed to traditional authorities to report issues of child marriage to the police without delay because child marriage issues were becoming alarming in the District.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Daniel Nartey, the Jirapa District Police Commander, said lack of cooperation from parents was making it difficult to fight the practice in the District.

Dr Richard Wodah-Seme, Medical Director of the Jirapa Saint Joseph Hospital, said a total of seven girls aged 10 – 14 years were pregnant between the period of January 2015 to June 2016.

He said another 419 girls aged 15 – 19 years were pregnant within the same period bringing the total number of teenage pregnancies recorded at the hospital to 426.

He said total deliveries for the same period were eight for 10 – 14 years and 432 for 15 – 19 years bringing the total teenage deliveries at the hospital to 440.

Dr Wodah-Seme said what it meant was that for every 100 pregnant women who came to the hospital, 14 per cent of them were teenagers.

He added that for every 100 women who delivered at the hospital 16 percent were children.

He said those 426 girls who got pregnant were forced to drop out of school and forced into marriage unprepared.