Thursday, May 7, 2009

‘Don’t settle rape, defilement cases at home’

‘Don’t settle rape, defilement cases at home’
Daily Graphic, Thursday, May 7, 2009 (Gender and Children) Page 11
Naa Lamiley Bentil

An Executive Board Member of the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), Ghana, Mrs Chris Daadzie, has advised traditional authorizes to discourage the practice of settling rape and defilement cases at home. Rather, she said, they should assist paralegals who are being trained by the federation to channel such cases through the formal system for proper redress to be sought for the victims.

Mrs Dadize, who was speaking at a durbar of chiefs and queens at Nungua to outdoor 30 paralegals for the Ledzkokuku Krowor Municipality, also appealed to the traditional rulers to review all forms of negative customs and traditional practices that violated the rights of women and children. “In spite of increasing reports by law enforcement agencies of sexual abuses, serious criminal offences, including rape and defilement are still no channeled through the appropriate legal system,” she said.

The 30 paralegals, made up of people with various educational backgrounds, were selected from the community and taken through a one-week intensive training on the Domestic Violence Act, the Children Act, Interstate Succession Law and other legal mediation training to equip them to resolve some of these cases and also serve as a point of referral on issues that might be beyond them.

According to Mrs Dadzie, Ledzkokuku Krowor was selected because of the high incidence of teenage pregnancy, school dropout rate, streetism and the high prevalence of domestic violence again women and children.

The federation, she further explained, selected the municipality because of a seemingly lack of knowledge by residents of where and how to seek justice for these abuses. She explained that the work of the paralegal was voluntary, so the Ledzkokuku Krowor Municipality Assembly would have to provide them with a meeting place where members could meet and share ideas in order to sustain the programme.

Another issue that came up was the menace of child maintenance. Mrs Dadsie said it was regrettable that although child maintenance was one of the major issues covered by the Children’s Act, many women continued to bear the burden of maintaining their children.

The Presiding Member for the Ledzkokuku Krowor Municipality Assembly, Mr Raphael Borketey Bortey, commended FIDA and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for selecting the areas as the first beneficiary of the programme in the Greater Accra Region.
He observed that the work of the paralegals would improve women’s access to resolving issues legally, and stressed that, “The paralegals will bring the laws to the doorsteps of the community.”

Statistics for the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), he said, indicated that domestic violence was still a major problem in the country and that an estimated number of 708 female children and five boys were defiled between January and December last year.

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