Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

Ghana: Treatment of women including domestic violence, forced/arranged marriages, divorce procedures; non-governmental organizations which assist women

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 6 November 2000
Citation / Document Symbol GHA35667.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: Treatment of women including domestic violence, forced/arranged marriages, divorce procedures; non-governmental organizations which assist women, 6 November 2000, GHA35667.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be3314.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

On 15 March 2000 the Ghanaian Chronicle reported:

A new report on violence against women has shown that contrary to popular belief, strangers are not the commonest perpetrators of violence against women. According to the report, investigations into who were the perpetrators of violence against women, including incidents documented in official reports, demonstrate that the most frequent offenders were lovers, spouse, male relatives, acquaintances and ex-spouses.

The report titled Breaking the Silence and Challenging the Myths of Violence Against Women and Children in Ghana is a collaborative work involving the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (GSHRDC) as Co-ordinator, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), Action Aid, Amasachina, Maata N Tudu, Bawku East Women's Development Association (BEWDA), World Neighbours, Centre for Sustainable Development Initiatives (CENSUDI) and Associates in Development (ASSID).

The report covered 20 districts in all the 10 regions of the country. Data was collected between January and October, 1998, and involved the collection of information from three different points – a review of official records, focus group discussions and the administration of a survey.

In all, 2069 women, aged 13 and above, were interviewed. 1588 of them were over the age of 19. 481 respondents were between the ages of 13 -18. Over half (54%) of women lived in urban centres while 46% lived in rural communities. Four in 10 of the women interviewed were not married at the time of the survey while six in 10 were married. ...

Factors perpetuating violence against women include the belief that women are under men and must be submissive to them; violence viewed as a private issue and ignorance about rights. The report indicates that there is a broad understanding of the term violence beyond just physical violence (cruel punishment, including starving children, punitive food rationing, inserting pepper and ginger into the genitals of children, beating ranging from slapping and punching, to kicking and burning) to include sexual violence (rape or forced sexual intercourse in marriage and out of marriage, defilement of young girls, psychological violence) threatening behaviour such as verbal threats, bullying and destruction of property, isolating a woman by refusing her to work, to visit with family and/or friends, and traditional practices (the forced enslavement of young female virgins -Trokosi).

It notes, however, that reporting of violence against women is generally low. When women choose to talk about their experiences, they prefer to report informally to family, friends, or members of the community. For women that reported physical violence, nine out of 10 reported at the informal level (family, religious leaders, friends); one in 10 reported at state agencies (police and courts).

Some of the reasons for not reporting include shame, lack of confidence in reporting agencies, financial cost, fear and cultural and social attitudes. 12% of women injured by the physical assault of a male partner did not seek treatment because they were embarrassed or ashamed, while 18% of women injured during a physical assault did not seek treatment because they had no money of their own Almost 1 in 3 (31%) women did not report sexual violence out of shame and one in 10 women felt that reporting would not help the matter. ...

There is the need, according to the report, for a comprehensive programme of response that targets both the immediate and long term needs of women and children experiencing violence; a community awareness programme which among other things informs women and children about their rights and available services, to challenge the acceptability of the use of violence, to distinguish between abuse and violence, and to recognise the factors that contribute to and perpetuate violence against women. It recommends increased resources to enable state agencies to encourage reporting and to help personnel respond to reported cases of violence, to develop policies and procedures for response, to develop guidelines for the collection of information for records and for records management, and to monitor and collect data on violence against women and children.

The prevalence findings of the report, notes Linda Regan of the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, University of North London, show that similar number of women experience violence in Ghana as elsewhere and the perpetrators are the same. Information in the report will contribute to the growing body of literature on the prevalence of violence, in particular from the experiences and perspectives of women in Ghana.

In further detail on the findings of this report the Accra Mail reported on 22 June 2000:

Family and friends are important means of support when women experience violence in all its forms, notes the report. For women that reported physical violence – 9 out of 10 reported at the informal level (family, religious leaders and friends) while 1 in 10 reported at state agencies (police and courts). For those who reported sexual violence, 6 in 10 did not report when touched against their will. Of the 4 in 10 who reported, 46% reported to parents; 29% to friends; 18% to extended family; 6% to school authorities; 2% to church leaders; 0.4% to chiefs and elders and 0.4% to social welfare.

When forced to touch a man's private parts, 7 in 10 women did not report. Of the 3 in 10 that reported, 56% reported to her own family; 21% to friends; 7% to social welfare; 7% to family or boyfriend; 4% to police; 2% to church or shrine; and 2% to other people including husbands.

When forced to have sex, 7 in 10 did not report while 3 in 10 reported. Of those that reported, 51% reported to parents; 30% to friends; 18% to extended family; 0.8% to chiefs and elders; 0.8% to school authorities; and 3% to other people. ...

It notes that 12% of women injured by the physical assault of a male partner did not seek treatment because they were embarrassed or ashamed, while about 1 in 3 (31%) did not report sexual violence out of shame. 1 in 4 women did not report their experiences of sexual violence because they were shy. 1 in 4 did not report their experiences of sexual violence because they felt there was no need to.

Cultural and social habits, particularly advice given to women when they reported physical violence, the report adds, also inhibit women talking about their experience. 34% of the women were advised to talk to their husbands or partners; 28% were advised to be patient, tolerant, to forgive or to stay; 11% were advised to talk to family members; 11% were advised to withdraw the case; 5% were advised to seek medical advice; 2% were advised to press charges while 9% were given other advice. Almost 2 in 10 (19%) did not leave their male partners who had been violent, due to pressure from family and friends while almost half of the women interviewed did not leave abusive partners because of children. ...

Lack of confidence in reporting agencies and fear were dominant reasons why women did not report their experiences of violence, observes the report. 1 in 10 felt that reporting would not help the situation. 3 in 10 women did not accept the advice given to them when they reported out of fear of the consequences; more than 2 in 10 accepted the advice given to them when they reported for fear of divorce (or because they hoped for change on the part of the perpetrators); 11% of women who left their partners did so out of fear for their lives.

According to the report, sexual violence such as rape, incest and harassment are considered taboo topics generally. Incidents are under-reported and the subject is not easily discussed. Similar reasons were cited even when it came to reporting forced sex. On financial cost, the report notes that 18% of women injured during a physical assault did not seek treatment because they had o money of their own.

There is need to increase the capacity of organisations and individuals to be able to respond to reported cases of violence against women and children. Breaking the silence recommends increased resources to enable state agencies to encourage reporting and to help personnel respond to reported cases of violence in a supportive and unbiased way. To facilitate this, it recommends the development of policies and procedures for response and guidelines for the collection and management of information on violence against women and children.

In other information on violence, according to the Ghanaian police Women and Juvenile Unit, "middle class males are increasingly being implicated in the escalating number of incest cases in the country" (PANA 9 Mar. 2000). "The unit recorded 325 cases of violence against women and children in 1999. Out of the number, 154 were on defilement, 93 on wife-battering. 23 were cases of rape. 22 cases on threatening, 11 on indecent assault and the remaining on incest, attempted rape and abduction" (ibid.). A representative of this police unit went on to comment that

although the role of the police was critical, research had shown that their response to domestic violence was often inadequate because they underestimated the impact of the abuses ...

"The police may also feel reluctant to intervene in domestic problems because of respect for the privacy of the family or because of mistaken vision of marital rights," she added.

[She] said there was no doubt the role of the police in the management of domestic violence was ambiguous and the task very difficult.

She noted that much of the ambiguity and difficulty arose from conflicts within the rest of society and the entire legal system that combined to underestimate and trivialise the abuses (ibid.).

In information on female genital mutilation, a 12 May 1999 article from New York Amsterdam News reported comments made by the legal counsel of a Ghanaian women who was applying for political asylum in the United States. The counsel presented "a report by the State Department showing that while female genital mutilation has been banned in Ghana since 1994, between 15 and 30 percent of women still suffer, with only 7 percent prosecuted."

The Ghanaian Chronicle reported on 10 March 2000 that a home for battered women would soon be built "at Amanfro on the Accra-Dodowa road. The structure, when established, will offer temporary dwelling to all abused women as they make alternative arrangements to cope with their lives."

For a list of women's organizations in Ghana please consult the attached document taken from a Website known as "Full Moon" (15 June 2000). The list is compiled by Denise Østed, "a Canadian-born writer and feminist" who has a B.A. in Women's Studies from the University of Manitoba and is on the editorial staff of Women'space Magazine, a Web-based publication out of Almonte, Ontario.

For further information on domestic violence in Ghana please consult the following Responses: GHA33798.E of 29 March 2000, GHA28320.E of 5 December 1997, and GHA26048.E of 24 January 1997. For information on forced/arranged marriages in Ghana please consult GHA35106.E of 12 September 2000, GHA33986.E of 10 March 2000, GHA33422.E of 21 December 1999, and GHA28582.E of 5 February 1998. For information on divorce procedures please consult GHA33798.E of 29 March 2000, GHA28878.E of 27 February 1998, and GHA28495.E of 5 January 1998. For further information on non-governmental organizations working in Ghana on issues related to these topics, please consult GHA35106.E of 12 September 2000, GHA33453.E of 18 January 2000, GHA28495.E of 5 January 1998, and GHA22901.E of 12 February 1996.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Accra Mail. 22 June 2000. Chido Onumah. "Ghana; Breaking the Silence." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Ghanaian Chronicle [Accra]. 15 March 2000. Kathy Cusack. "Ghana; Violence: Women More at Risk From Acquaintances and Male Relatives." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 10 March 2000. "Ghana; Home for Battered Women Set-Up." (Africa News/NEXIS)

New York Amsterdam News [Amsterdam, N.Y.]. 12 May 1999. Ariene Mukoko. "Last Chance for Asylum for Ghanaian Woman." (The Ethnic NewsWatch/NEXIS)

Panafrican News Agency (PANA). 9 March 2000. "Ghana; Gender Bulletin Incest Cases Escalate in Ghana." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Attachment

Østed, Denise. 15 June 2000. "Women's Organisations: Ghana." [Accessed 30 Oct. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

LEXIS-NEXIS

REFWORLD

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites including:

Center for Reproductive Law and Policy

Women Watch

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld

Countries