Thu, 09 May 2024 Feature Article

A Father’s Senseless Inhumanity

A Fathers Senseless Inhumanity

“To create an environment where domestic violence and other forms of abuse would be freely reported and to collaborate with stake holders to provide coordinated timely responses to victims.” - DOVVSU – Vision

A sociologist qua sociologist should feel haunted or traumatised reading the piece that tells of a father who 'burns daughter's private part'.

The story unfolds: “…the father, who is a farmer, lived with his four children including the victim in a far-away hamlet at Nkwanta, on the Agona Nkwanta-Nsuaem road, and has been cultivating cassava which the victim sells in the market on daily basis… the father realised that his daughter would return home late any time she goes to the market to sell cassava.

“So on Sunday, the father confronted the daughter who denied having a boyfriend at the market. But the father told her he would destroy her 'vagina' so that she cannot have sexual intercourse with anybody at the market… The father then tied the girl's hands at her back and put the two cutlasses he use at the farm in fire, and when they were hot inserted them into the girl's private part one after the other…”

Horror! Horror! Horror! What do the doctors say? Any effect on the girl's womb? Let's pause here. Is it a display of insensitivity? Is it a demonstration of man's inhumanity to man (or daughter)? We continue: “…the girl managed to run away… a woman came across the victim who was in pain… the woman reported the incident to the security man of the organisation who went for the victim for safekeeping… the security man, Simon Enor… took her to the Nsuaem Government Hospital… he later reported the case to the police… information he gathered was that Benyah Nyera Nda fathered the four children with four different women and decided to look after them all by himself in the small village…”

At a circuit court at Tarkwa, the biological father of the child pleaded guilty simplistic to the charges of causing harm, indecent assault, and female genital mutilation. Mrs. Hathia Ama Manu sentenced the 'unfeeling' father to 10 years' imprisonment. Could the punishment be enhanced?

We are at pains and are repulsed to recall the incident. We are persuaded to express our gratitude to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of Tarkwa for taking a positive action.

Our minds go round, and we recall Lady Macduff's speech in 'Macbeth' where she says after the flight of Macduff, “He loves us not; He wants the natural touch. For the poor wren, The most diminutive of birds, will fight, Her young ones in her nest, against the owl…”

The Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, formerly referred to as Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU), was established in 1998. The Unit is expected to provide free services to members of the public, protect the rights of the vulnerable against all forms of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, socio–economic or harmful cultural practices.

Act 732 which established DOVVSU was signed into law by President Kufuor after Parliament passed it in 2007. It aims at providing assistance to the vulnerable particularly women and children. Its activities interrelate with the Department of Social Welfare and the International Federation of Women Lawyers.

DOVVSU's actions are guided by provisions in the Constitution of Ghana, 1992, the Police Service Act, the Criminal and Other Offence Act (Act 29 of 1960), the Children's Act (Act 560 of 1998), the Juvenile Justice Act (Act 653 of 20023)

Article 15 of the 1992 constitution says: (1) The dignity of all persons shall be inviolable. The Children's Act 1998 (Act 560) as amended (2016, 2017) caters for the welfare of children: and the 1992 Constitution and Children's Act put the marriageable age at 18 years.

The African Charter adopted in July 1990 came into effect in 1999 and in 2019. The Black Star Gate was lit blue to celebrate the 30th anniversary of commitment to protecting the right of its children.

And, in spite of section 14 of the children Act, 'Right to refuse betrothal and marriage, a 13 (later, 14, 15 and 16) year-old was being married off to a 63 year old man. It was a marriage between the girl (or lady or queen) to Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII the Gborbu Wulomo-Shitse, High Priest of the Ga-Dangme state. While celebrities were crying foul, feminists were fuming with rage.

Some people resorted to arguments based on tradition and one had to be careful not to incur the wrath of the Ga as a tribal unit. So the question is: Do we uphold tradition and neglect universal human rights considerations? Was the marriage illegal, unlawful, distasteful, barbaric, unconstitutional and a gross violation of the right of the child? To the adherents of the custom of the child's marriage to a deity, it was a revered tradition that “plays an integral part in traditional and religious ceremonies, including the cleaning and ablution of the Gborbu temple during the Kplojoo Homowo Festival.”

A newspaper expresses the sentiment in the following words: “Children are delicate beings who deserve the care, love and utmost protection at all times to spur their growth and development. It is for this reason that there are numerous international conventions and laws in the country to promote their welfare.”

The newspaper was emphatic: “It is unacceptable to hide under the cloak of customs and traditions to disregard the laws of the country in this case, laws that protect the rights of children. As a country, we have dealt with abhorrent practices such as 'trokosi' and 'female genital multilation'. Do you remember that the 'revered' tradition of trokosi, meaning wife to the deity practiced among the Ewes and Dangmes, permits the enslavement of children as young as five years? The young women are given as wives to the deity 'Fiasidewo' to serve in the shrine of a Troxovi to atone for sins committed by their relatives.

Why are women and girls subjected to the indignities and inhumane treatments? And you find 'witches camps' in Banyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Naabull, where women suspected to be witches are put away from their homes and secluded in these 'camps'.

Religion, customs and tradition! We have heard of human sacrifice. Biblically, Jephthah sacrificed his daughter (Judges II) to keep true to God that is, if he allowed him to overcome the Ammonities, whoever comes to greet him home first would be sacrificed to God. And his daughter was the first… What about Abraham's attempt to sacrifice his son, Isaac?

Human sacrifice was prevalent in Ghana in the 19th Century. A dead chief had to go into the 'other world' with a number of servants! So that the chief's 'Life' in the 'other word' would not be different from his 'life' on earth. Did it mean the 'servants' would forever remain 'servants', 'slaves'? And women would be buried with their husbands till human sacrifice was abolished in 1881 in the Gold Coast.

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By AfrricanusOwusu – Ansah