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Ghana: Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVISU), formerly the Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU), established by the Ghanaian police and whether it provides protection to women in Ghana (March 2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 6 April 2006
Citation / Document Symbol GHA101146.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVISU), formerly the Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU), established by the Ghanaian police and whether it provides protection to women in Ghana (March 2006), 6 April 2006, GHA101146.E, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
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Mandate, Services, and Activities

Formerly known as the Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; Ghana 11 Jan. 2006, 11; GNA 27 Jan. 2006), the Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVISU) is a "specialized unit within the Ghana Police Service" (GPS) (Accra Mail 10 Dec. 2003), established in 1998 to address the rising number of cases of abuse and violence against women and children (ibid.; Ghana n.d.a), as well as to research characteristics and trends of crimes against women and children (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). The unit changed name between 2004 and 2005 (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). It has offices in each of the capital cities of the 10 regions and in some districts of Ghana (Daily Graphic 1 Apr. 2004). In January 2006, the Co-ordinating Director of DOVVISU, Chief Superintendent Beatrice Vib-Sanziri indicated that the unit would be expanding its presence to include all district and division police offices in Ghana (Ghana Jan. 2006; GNA 27 Jan. 2006).

DOVVISU describes its role as being to, among other things, "protect the rights of women and children against all forms of abuse; ...[p]rovid[e] advice on crime prevention to perpetrators and members of the public; [and] [a]rrest and prosecute where necessary" (Ghana n.d.b). The unit's functions are posted online as being the following:

i. To investigate all female and children related offences;

ii. To handle cases involving domestic violence;

iii. To handle cases of child abuse;

iv. To handle juvenile offences;

v. To handle cases of child delinquency;

vi. To prosecute all such cases, where necessary, and [to perform] any other functions [as] directed by the Inspector General of Police.

(ibid. n.d.c)

According to the DOVVISU Website, the unit "does not operate as a regular police station" (ibid. n.d.a). Services provided by DOVVISU are cost-free (Public Agenda 11 July 2005; Accra Mail 10 Dec. 2003, Ghana n.d.b); and include taking statements, briefing victims on their cases, providing advice on crime prevention, referring clients to community-based medical and counseling services, as well as providing the services of a clinical psychologist and social workers (Ghana n.d.d).

In May 2005, DOVVISU held its first workshop designed to train officers of the Ghana Police Service within Accra and to make them sensitive to the situation of women and children (GNA 9 May 2005). In January 2006, a second workshop provided training to desk officers from all 11 regions and DOVVISU's headquarters (Ghana Jan. 2006). The unit conducts extensive public education campaigns (Public Agenda 9 May 2005; Ghana n.d.a).

In April 2003, a Ghanaian newspaper announced that the Ghana Police Service would be establishing an Accra-based national secretariat for WAJU, in a bid to increase its effectiveness in the provision of its services (Daily Graphic 1 Apr. 2003). The building would eventually include a reception area, cells, a conference hall, a library, and a children's room; office space was also allocated for child protection agencies as well as medical and legal services provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (ibid. 1 Apr. 2004). A groundbreaking ceremony for the new secretariat was held in Spring 2004 (ibid.), and DOVVISU's 2005 annual report projects that the first floor of the national secretariat will be built by the end of 2006 (New Times Online 20 Jan 2006).

According to Country Reports 2005, domestic violence continues to be a major problem in Ghana, but is not criminalized, and husbands have spousal immunity to charges of assault filed by their wives (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). Draft legislation on domestic violence is currently before the Ghanaian Parliament (Ghana 11 Mar. 2006). The date of introduction of this legislation could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate; however, the Ghanaian National Coalition on Domestic Violence Legislation stated in March 2006 that the bill had been introduced to Parliament four years earlier (ibid.). The bill would provide the "much needed legal backing" for DOVISSU to assist women and to prosecute perpetrators (PANA 19 June 2004). The government was criticized for its "lack of seriousness" with respect to the bill (Ghana 11 Mar. 2006), and the bill has been described as being "in limbo" (PANA 19 June 2004).

An uncorroborated Ghanaian Chronicle news article of 7 April 2005 accused DOVVISU of protecting an Ejisu ruler (JENDA 2001, 7), against whom a complaint of child neglect and non-maintenance of a child had been lodged.


Country Reports 2004 cited 11,984 total cases reported to DOVVISU for that year, including 7,421 cases of child neglect, 2,059 cases of assault (primarily domestic violence), and 181 cases of rape (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2004 described the prosecution of domestic violence as "difficult" and without specifying the number of cases prosecuted noted "approximately one-quarter received convictions" (ibid.).

More specifically, Country Reports 2005 reported that between 1998 and 2004, 11,335 cases of domestic violence were reported to DOVVISU's Accra branch (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). Of these, nineteen per cent resulted in a court hearing and fewer than three per cent of cases led to convictions (ibid.).


Without specific instructions to do so by DOVVISU, police rarely involve themselves in cases of domestic violence (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2005 notes that many women can not get the medical care necessary for documenting abuses (ibid.), and on 11 August 2005, the Accra Mail reported a public appeal made by Sophia Amofa Torpey, Commander of DOVVISU (Accra Mail 11 Aug. 2005). Torpey indicated that the costs of securing medical reports for victims of rape and defilement were "draining its meager budget" (ibid.). She also cited the absence of a shelter for battered women, as well as the small size of the DOVVISU office, as constraints (ibid.). The unit does not have resources to conduct forensic work or psychosocial analysis, or to provide general victim support services (Ghana n.d.a). According to DOVVISU's Website, it has not been able to respond properly to a continuously increasing caseload (Ghana n.d.a). In a 2003 article, WAJU spokesperson Inspector Elvis Bawa Sadongo described the space available to the unit as "too small," and described the crowds at the office as a "health hazard for both the complainants and [us] the service providers" (Accra Mail 21 Dec. 2003). He further indicated a need for WAJU offices to be computerized and networked, as well as have access to the Internet (ibid.). The executive director of Ghana's Advocates for Gender Equity has described WAJU as "understaffed" (Public Agenda 5 July 2004). The availability of transport is a logistical challenge (Public Agenda 11 July 2005), and the remoteness and large size of the Northern region has been described as an obstacle for police attempting to reach out to victims (Accra Mail 24 Oct. 2003), as is the absence of DOVVISU units in remote areas of Ghana (Ghanaian Chronicle 25 Feb. 2004).

Support and Cooperation

DOVVISU cooperates with the Ghanaian Department of Social Welfare, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (Fédération internationale des femmes jurists, FIDA), the Ghanaian Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Ghanaian Legal Aid Board (Public Agenda 11 July 2005; Ghana n.d.a). DOVVISU also works with family tribunal courts (ibid.).

A number of articles described the contributions of DOVVISU partners to the unit's activities. The Ark Foundation, an NGO, assists the unit with accommodation (Accra Mail 11 Aug. 2005; ibid. 21 Dec. 2003). The Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE) provides counselling support (ibid. 21 Dec. 2003; Ghana n.d.a); and as reported in 2003, WAJU functioned with one vehicle donated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) (Accra Mail 21 Dec. 2003).

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 for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Accra Mail [Accra, Ghana]. 11 August 2005. Richard Nkansah and Theresa Adzaku "Waju Cries for Help." (AllAfrica/Factiva)
_____. 24 October 2003. "Public Encouraged to Report Domestic Violence." (Asia Africa Intelligence Wire/Factiva)
_____. 21 December 2003. Kent Mensah. "Don't Castrate Rapists! – Waju Fires Back." (AllAfrica/Factiva)
_____. 10 December 2003. Isaac Essel. "Waju on Violence Against Women and Children." (AllAfrica/Factiva)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. 8 March 2006. "Ghana." United States Department of State. [Accessed 27 Mar. 2006]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Ghana." United States Department of State. [Accessed 10 Mar. 2006]

Daily Graphic [Accra, Ghana]. 1 April 2004. "Work Begins on WAJU Secretariat." Ghana Police Website [Accessed 13 Mar. 2006]
_____. 1 April 2003. "WAJU to Built Permanent Secretariat." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2006]

Ghana. 11 March 2006. Information Services Department (ISD). "Domestic Violence Bill is for All – NCDV." [Accessed 13 Mar. 2006]
_____. 11 January 2006. In United Nations. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Written Replies by the Government of Ghana Concerning the list of Issues (CRC/GHA/Q/2) Received by the Committee on the Rights of the Child Relative to the Consideration of the Second Periodic Report of Ghana (CRC/C/65/Add.34). [Accessed 289 Mar. 2006]
_____. January 2006. Ghana Police Service (GPS). "Workshop on Domestic Violence Ends." [Accessed 27 Mar. 2006]
_____. N.d.a. Ghana Police Service (GPS), Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU). "The Establishment of WAJU." [Accessed 9 Mar. 2006]
_____. N.d.b. Ghana Police Service (GPS), Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU). "Role of WAJU." [Accessed 9 Mar. 2006]
_____. N.d.c. Ghana Police Service (GPS), Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU). "What are the Functions of WAJU." [Accessed 9 Mar. 2006]
_____. N.d.d. Ghana Police Service (GPS), Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU). "What Support Does WAJU Provide to Victims?" [Accessed 9 Mar. 2006]

Ghanaian Chronicle [Accra]. 7 April 2005. Sebastian R. Freiku. "Waju Protecting 'Dead-Beat' Ejisuhene?" (AllAfrica/Factiva)
_____. 25 February 2004. Racheal O. Amakye. "Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." (AllAfrica/Factiva)

Ghana News Agency (GNA). 27 January 2006. "WESTEL Donates Items." [Accessed 27 Mar. 2006]
_____. 9 May 2005. "Police Officers Schooled on Rights of Women and Children." [Accessed 22 Mar. 2006]

JENDA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. 2001. Vol. 1. No. 2. Lynda R. Day. "Long Live the Queen!: The Yaa Asantewaa Centenary and the Politics of History." [Accessed 13 Mar. 2006]

New Times Online. 20 January 2006. Catherine Boye. "Arrest Human Rights Offenders – Police Asked." [Accessed 27 Mar. 2006]

Panafrican News Agency (PANA). 19 June 2004. "Men March for Domestic Violence Bill in Ghana." (Asia Africa Intelligence Wire/Factiva)

Public Agenda. [Accra]. 11 July 2005. Ama Achiaa Amankwah. "Meet the 'Action-Woman' of WAJU." (AllAfrica/Factiva)

______. 9 May 2005. "Waju Records 842 Cases of Domestic Violence in First Quarter." [Accessed 9 Mar. 2006]
_____. 5 July 2004. Martin Luther Otu. "Gov't Urged to Strengthen Institutions That Promote Women's Rights." [Accessed 22 Mar. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: City University of New York (CUNY); European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI); Inter Press Service; Network for Women's Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT); Women in Law and Development Africa (WILDAF); United Kingdom Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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