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Ghana: Forced marriages; prevalence of such marriages; whether a woman can refuse such a marriage, and the consequences of the refusal; available state protection and redress (2004-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 24 October 2006
Citation / Document Symbol GHA101618.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: Forced marriages; prevalence of such marriages; whether a woman can refuse such a marriage, and the consequences of the refusal; available state protection and redress (2004-2006), 24 October 2006, GHA101618.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f1473720.html [accessed 25 September 2017]
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.

The Criminal Code, 1960 of Ghana, last amended in 2003, states that forcing a person to marry against their will is illegal (Ghana 12 Jan. 1961, Sec. 109) and the Children's Act of Ghana, 1998 stipulates that forced child marriage is also illegal (30 Dec. 1998, Sec. 14 and 15).

Womankind, a United Kingdom-based organization promoting the advancement of women's rights, indicates that, even though legislation prohibiting forced marriages exists in Ghana, there has been little action to eliminate such practices (n.d.). Similarly, the Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child states that even though such laws exist, they are not enforced (May 2005).

According to a survey conducted in Ghana under the auspices of the National Council on Women and Development and presented at a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Division for the Advancement of Women, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the World Health Organization (WHO),

[g]enerally, it was realized that girls marry at an earlier age than boys and that parents and other close relations were more likely to decide and choose partners for the girl-child than the boy-child.... Twenty-two percent (22%) of the married females stated that their parents decided for them as compared to 12% of the males. In addition, 30% of the females reported that their parents and other close relatives chose their partners for them as compared to 16% of the males (Ardayfio Apr. 2005).

The Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD), a non-governmental organization (NGO) seeking to promote women's sexual and reproductive health and human rights in Africa (FORWARD n.d.), has conducted a survey on selected gender and reproductive health issues including forced marriage (ibid. Dec. 2005, 2). According to the results, 52 percent of women respondents were "victims of child/forced marriage" (ibid.).

In its comments to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Ghanaian delegation indicated, on the subject of forced marriage, that "[g]irls had become more aware of their rights and were more assertive in exercising them. A girl who felt she was being coerced into marriage could file a complaint with the Department of Social Welfare" (UN 23 Jan. 2006, para. 13). However, the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in its response to Ghana's periodic reports, indicated that young girls are not always aware that forced child marriages are illegal and, therefore, that they have the right to refuse (18 Apr. 2005, para. 201).

Information on forced marriage of adult women was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, in its research on inheritance in four communities in the upper east region of Ghana, the Widows and Orphans Ministry (WOM) of Ghana found that widows are forced to marry within the dead husband's family (WRI 3 Jan. 2006). A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) article also reports that many widows are forced to marry within their late husband's family (7 July 2004).

According to an article in the Accra Daily Mail, the Ghanaian Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) indicates that forced marriage is one of the main human rights abuses in the northern region (30 Aug. 2004; see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). The CHRAJ states that, out of the 84 human rights abuses cases filed at their Saboda district office, 51 were cases of forced marriage (Accra Daily Mail 30 Aug. 2004). No current statistics could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Forced marriage is one of the types of cases handled by the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service (Ghana n.d.a). The DOVVSU states that a total of three cases of forced marriage were reported to the Accra office between January and July 2005 (ibid. n.d.b).

Information on the consequences of refusing a forced marriage could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, usually a child-bride starts to cohabite with her chosen husband when she reaches puberty; by that time, "the girl has been socialized to accept her fate or else economic and social pressures will compel her to do so" (UN 18 Apr. 2005, para. 201). The same report indicates that, in northern Ghana, because the husband starts to pay a "bride price" or perform services for the promised bride's parents when the bride is as young as five years old, the girl is "in no position to refuse to marry him when she comes of age" (ibid., para. 202).

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.

References

Accra Daily Mail. 30 August 2004. "CHRAJ Worried About Forced Marriages in the N/R." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2006]

Ardayfio-Schandorf, Elizabeth. April 2005. University of Ghana, Family and Development Programme. Violence Against Women: The Ghanaian Case. Paper presented at the Expert Group Meeting of the United Nations (UN) Division for the Advancement of Women in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) held in Geneva, Switzerland from 11 to 14 April 2005. [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). 7 July 2004. Lyndsay Duncombe. "Woe for the Widows of Ghana." [12 Sept. 2006]

Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD). December 2005. "Gender & Reproductive Health in Northern Ghana." Forward Newsletter. [Accessed 12 Sept. 2006]
_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 12 Sept. 2006]

Ghana. 30 December 1998. The Children's Act, 1998. (International Labour Organization Web site) [Accessed 6 Sept. 2006]
_____. 12 January 1961. Criminal Code, 1960. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/Refworld). [Accessed 6 Sept. 2006]

Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child (GNCRC). May 2005. The Ghana NGO Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child by the Republic of Ghana. (Child Rights Information Networks, CRIN Web site) [Accessed 12 Sept. 2006]

Ghana. N.d.a. Police Service. "Role of the DOVVSU in the Ghana Police Service." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2006]
_____. N.d.b. Police Service. "Statistics." [Accessed 12 Sept. 2006]

United Nations (UN). 23 January 2006. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Consideration of Reports of States Parties: Second Periodic Report of Ghana. (CRC/C/SR.1093). [Accessed 12 Sept. 2006]
_____. 18 April 2005. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Combined Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties: Ghana. (CEDAW/C/GHA/3-5). [Accessed 6 Sept. 2006]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Ghana." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

Widows Rights International (WRI). 3 January 2006. [Accessed 12 Sept. 2006]

Womankind. N.d. "Why Ghana?" [Accessed 11 Sept. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: A professor at the University of Cape Coast and the Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE) did not provide information within the time constraints.

A professor at the University of Helsinki did not have information on the subject.

Attempts to contact LAWA Ghana, the Ghana Police Service, the National Council on Women and Development and the International Federation of Women Lawyers Ghana (FIDA Ghana) were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; The Ark Foundation, Ghana; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice; Factiva; Freedom House; The Ghanaian Chronicle [Accra]; the Guttmacher Institute; Human Rights Watch; Integrated Regional Information Networks; International Federation of Women Lawyers Ghana (FIDA Ghana); Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Public Agenda; Women in Law and Development in Africa-Ghana; Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment.

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.

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