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Ghana: Domestic violence, including protection, services and recourse available to victims

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 10 June 2010
Citation / Document Symbol GHA103468.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: Domestic violence, including protection, services and recourse available to victims, 10 June 2010, GHA103468.E, available at: [accessed 19 December 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.

An article from Public Agenda, a media organization based in Accra, indicates that the Accra Regional Office of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service reported in 2009 that the number of domestic violence cases in Ghana increased from 4,904 cases in 2008 to 5,709 cases in 2009 (25 Jan. 2010). Complaints of assault were the most prevalent and as of December 2009, 2,458 cases of assault had been reported (Public Agenda 25 Jan. 2010). The Ghana News Agency (GNA) cites statistics from the DOVVSU indicating that 708 defilement cases were reported against girls and 5 against boys from January to December 2008 (10 Mar. 2009).


Ghana enacted the Domestic Violence Act, 2007, in 2007 (Ghana 2007). The Act provides protection to victims of domestic violence, defines domestic violence, prohibits domestic violence, and illustrates the role of police in protecting domestic violence victims (ibid.). The Act states in Article 3:

Prohibition of domestic violence

3 (1) A person in a domestic relationship shall not engage in domestic violence.

(2) A person in a domestic relationship who engages in domestic violence commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than five hundred penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than two years or to both.

(3) The Court may in addition to imposing a fine or a prison term, order the offender in a case of domestic violence to pay compensation to the victim as the Court may determine.

(4) When a cause for complaint has arisen between persons in a domestic relationship and the persons do not cohabit, none of those persons shall enter into residence of the other person without that other person's permission. (ibid.)

State Protection

The Ghana Domestic Violence Act 2007 states the following pertaining to protection orders:

Jurisdiction of Court

11. (1) A Court with original jurisdiction may hear and determine a matter of domestic violence under this Act.

(2) The Court may in the exercise of its jurisdiction issue a protection order.

Application for protection order

12. (1) A person referred to in this Act as the applicant, may apply to a Court for a protection order…


Conduct of proceedings

13. (1) Proceedings for a protection order shall be held in private in the presence of the parties, their lawyers and any other person permitted by the Court to be present.


Interim protection Order

14. (1) Where an applicant is made ex pat le to the Court for a protection order, the court shall issue an interim protection order if it is considers the order to be in the best interest of the applicant.


Grant of Protection order

15. (1) The court may issue a protection order to prohibit a respondent from committing or threatening to commit an act of domestic violence personally or otherwise against an applicant or a relation or a friend of the applicant.


Duration of final protection order

16. (1) A final protection order issued by a Court shall not exceed twelve months in the first instance but may for good cause shown, be extended, modified, or rescinded by the Court on a motion by a party to the original proceeding.


Occupation order

20. (1) Where the Court in issuing a protection order considers it expedient to issue an occupation order, the Court may issue the order requiring the respondent to vacate the matrimonial home or any other specified home.


Police services

In October 1998 Ghana established the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU), then known as the Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) (Ghana n.d.). DOVVSU's mission is "to prevent, protect, apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence and child abuse" (ibid.). DOVVSU provides crime prevention advice throughout the country's schools, churches and markets, receives complaints, provides free services to the public, provides victims with information pertaining to their complaint and investigation and refers victims for counselling and medical support (ibid.).

A 13 July 2009 article from Public Agenda indicates that the DOVVSU coordinates activities with the Department of Social Welfare, the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the Legal Aid Board. The article reports that the DOVVSU is the only source of support for victims of domestic abuse and that the unit provides free services seven days a week, such as shelters, counselling programs, legal and medical advice to victims (Public Agenda 13 July 2009). The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General's database on Violence Against Women indicates that DOVVSU has 63 district offices, 11 regional offices and 170 officers (Jan. 2009). DOVVSU assists victims of fraud, physical assault, sexual abuse and non-maintenance of children (UN Jan. 2009). The UN Secretary-General's database describes the DOVVSU unit as an "important avenue" for victims of domestic violence (ibid.).

In 2010 Kwasi Apea-Kubi, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, stated that the government has launched a strategic plan intended to focus on public education against negative socio-cultural practices that discriminate against women (Ghanaian Chronicle 23 Jan. 2010). The DOVVSU strategic plan is meant to protect, prevent and prosecute crimes of neglect, violence, and abuse of vulnerable people in society (ibid.). DOVVSU is also participating in an advocacy programme to sensitize the public to act "responsibly, in order to avoid conditions that encourage domestic violence" (ibid.). According to the Inspector General of the Police, the police administration encourages DOVVSU to continue with its anti-domestic violence campaign as a means to make more Ghanaians aware of the Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (ibid.).

Support Services

In order to respond to the high number of reported cases of domestic violence in Ghana, the non-governmental organization (NGO) the Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE) was created in 1999 (WISE n.d.a). WISE is located in Accra and offers a program called "WISE UP" which provides support programs for women and children, including counselling, medical and financial support, health care, temporary housing, welfare support, legal and emergency support (ibid. n.d.b).

One of WISE's main purposes is to empower survivors of domestic abuse and provide them with coping mechanisms (ibid.). The program has developed a wide-ranging referral system in order to ensure that their clients receive support they require (ibid.). For example, if victims require shelter, WISE refers them to partners who provide shelter (ibid.).

The Ark Foundation, Ghana, is a "an advocacy-based, women's human rights non governmental organization" (The Ark Foundation n.d.a). The Ark focuses on protecting the human rights of women and children in Ghana (ibid.) and offers aid thru the foundations two program areas; the Women's Law and Human Rights Institute (WLHRI) and the Support to Survivors of Gender Violence and Child Abuse Program (CRCP) (ibid. n.d.b.) The support to survivors of gender violence program began in August 1999 and operates through the Crisis Response Centre Project (CRCP) in Accra (ibid. n.d.b). Services provided by CRCP include counselling, temporary shelter, legal aid, a 24-hour hotline, rehabilitation, medical and other referrals (ibid. n.d.b). This program operates in the Crisis Response Centre in Haasto, Accra, the Legal Centre at Accra New Town, a shelter in the Eastern Region and the Counselling Centre in Tontro in the Eastern Region (ibid.).


Sources indicate that even though domestic violence is prohibited by law, women in Ghana continue to be victims of abuse and the prosecution of cases is very difficult (US 11 Mar 2010, Sec. 6; Ghanaian Chronicle 9 Dec. 2009). The United States (US) Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 reports that although efforts have been made to make Ghanians aware that domestic violence is a crime, NGOs and government officials stated that they "did not have evidence that the new law had increased victims' willingness to report abuse" (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). Since there are delays in bringing domestic violence cases to trial, many victims are discouraged from cooperating with prosecutors and from reporting abuses (ibid.).

The Ghanaian Chronicle reports that one of the government's priorities has been to "eliminate" violence against women (7 Apr. 2010). An article in the Ghanaian Chronicle suggests that the campaign against violence towards women has not reached those in the northern part of the country (7 Apr. 2010). Sources indicate that traditionally people view domestic violence as a family matter, therefore they tend to resolve family issues within their home and not seek help from the police or any other third party (Ghanaian Chronicle 9 Dec. 2009; Public Agenda 13 July 2009). The Ghanaian Chronicle states that some women are afraid that their husbands will divorce them if they report abuse to the police (9 Dec. 2009).

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Ark Foundation, Ghana. N.d.a. "Home." [Accessed 4 May 2010]

_____. N.d.b. "Programs." [Accessed 30 July 2010]

Ghana. 2007. Ghana Domestic Violence Act, 2007, Act 732. [Accessed 27 Apr. 2010]

_____. N.d. Ghana Police Service. "DOVVSU Ghana Police Service." [Accessed 27 Apr. 2010]

Ghanaian Chronicle. 7 April 2010. Helena Selby. "Ghana: Violence Against Women Still Rampant in the Northern Region." (All [Accessed 27 Apr. 2010]

_____. 23 January 2010. Helena Selby. "DOVVSU Adopts Strategic Plan For Improvement." [Accessed 11 May 2010]

_____. 9 December 2009. Helena Selby. "Ghana: Violence Against Women - an Increasing Pandemic." (All [Accessed 4 May 2010]

Ghana News Agency (GNA). 10 March 2009. "Domestic Violence is Still a Problem in Ghana-Director." (My Joy Online) [Accessed 26 Apr. 2010]

Public Agenda [Accra]. 25 January 2010. Ama A. Amankwah Baafi. "Ghana: Domestic Violence Cases on the Rise." (All [Accessed 27 Apr. 2010]

_____. 13 July 2009. Ama Achiaa Amankwah and Megan Gex. "Ghana: Dovvsu Records High Domestic Violence Cases in First Quarter of 2009." [Accessed 3 May 2010]

United Nations (UN). January 2009. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU)." [Accessed 18 May 2010]

United States (US). 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Ghana" . Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2010]

Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE). N.d.a "History of Wise." [Accessed 4 May 2010]

_____. N.d.b. "WISE-UP." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2010]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites including: Africa Files, Association for Women's Rights in Development, Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Ghana Web, Global Fund For Women, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, International Women's Rights Action Watch, News From Africa, Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), Reporters Without Borders, Stop Violence Against Women, United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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