Deborah Dzifa Makafui Writes: Are Women Unsafe In Ghana?
Most recently, Ghana was ranked the second safest country in Africa. However, Ghana is not any different from other countries with the global problem of violence against women.
Women’s safety is not just violated when there is a conflict or war in a state, it’s threatened as they go about their daily lives both in public or private spheres. Even in countries that are ranked “safest”, women are still unsafe.
Regarding women rape and domestic violence, the Domestic Violence, and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service with the Department of Social Welfare, CHRAJ, Legal Aid, and many other human rights NGOs actively help to address rape and domestic violence in Ghana.
According to statistics available at the Accra Regional Office of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), as of August 2020, 31.9% of Ghanaian women have faced at least one form of domestic violence – physical, economic, psychological, social, or sexual.
Also, according to statistics from the United Nations, Ghana has been ranked number forty-seven in; “Most dangerous countries for women”.
While this menace is still on the rise and widespread, the bone of contention here is; most violent acts committed against women are significantly underreported.
Speaking with a police officer, Cherubim Wuaku said, “Most times, women hardly come out to report such cases like violence against them, we know the cases are more than the figures”.
This means the data available on reported cases represent a small part of the problem when compared to how widespread it is currently in the country.
He also said, “I believe government can do more in this regard by creating more organizations that would concentrate more on violence committed against women and give more opportunities for women who have been violated, to come forward and report.”
A domestic violence victim, Grace (Not real name) complained about the victim-blaming she suffered when she reported her case to her family.
“I told my family members when my husband beat me up, and my family didn’t take me seriously. I decided not to tell the police because if my family is not on my side, I don’t think the police will be on my side either since you hardly see women get justice for domestic violence.” She said.
A police officer who works with DOVVSU, Sheilla Dziwornu stated that one of the reasons why cases are underreported is interference from religious bodies and miseducation.
“When people report to us, they end up retracting their statements because they are told that DOVVSU would rather dissolve their marriage, and so you hear them saying their religious leaders are helping them to solve the case.”
She also expressed bitterly that DOVVSU doesn’t have adequate resources to follow-up cases.
“Most times, victims are forced to spend their money on a case because we don’t have the adequate resources to follow up that case. We don’t have an affiliation with any hospital, so victims pay for their defilement reports. Things like this discourage women from coming to us since we can’t help them with what we have. The government has not been supportive at all. I urge the government, to come to our aid so that we can work efficiently. I believe this will encourage women to step forward against violence.”
There are many reasons cases go unreported such as; victim-blaming, embarrassment, interference from opinion leaders, fear of broken homes, retaliation, dependency on their partners, bodies lacking adequate resources to follow up a case, and power imbalance and its dynamics.
This violent upsurge has become a topic of concern for many, as institutions are being formed to fight gender-based violence, it seems violence against women has increased and is fighting back, making women and girls unsafe in Ghana.
The government needs to act quickly because this problem is becoming a norm in the country.
Speaking with a security analyst, Adib Sani, he mentioned a way this menace can reduce or end in Ghana.
“Government setting up special courts that are capacitated and given the requisite equipment to do their work in a much more progressive manner, I’m sure that can help mitigate the situation because people would have to be punished and that can only happen when you have a strong legal regime that punishes offenders rigorously and vigorously, if not a lot more men will feel that, they’d get away with it when they engage in this practices so the legal regime, improving its institutional capacity to deal with offenders,” he said.
There is an urgent need to prioritize women’s safety in the country.
Violence negatively affects women’s general and mental wellbeing and prevents women from participating fully in societal functions.
These repercussions inadvertently affect families, society, and countries at large.