25.02.2008 General News

CHRAJ: Human rights in northern Ghana not encouraging

By The Statesman
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The human rights situation in the Northern Region has been described as gloomy in spite of the various interventions made by human rights institutions and civil society organizations, an official of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice has noted.

Issues bordering on the rights of women and children, the state of conflict, the state of health care delivery with specific reference to the right to health, the situation of remand prisoners, among others, are said to be very appalling.

Official records indicate that the Commission received a total of 813 cases of human rights abuses last year, out of which 594 were settled.

The cases relate to complaints on maintenance and forced marriage, retrieval of property and inheritance and non-payment of salary, unlawful termination of appointment and several others.

Speaking at a Journalist for Human Rights organised workshop in Tamale, Northern Regional Director of CHRAJ Iddrisu Dajia said inspite of the various interventions put in place by the Commission, governmental organizations and NGOs, "women and children still remain the most vulnerable groups in our society."

According to him, the problem of negative socio-cultural practices against women are still very visible, adding that, "there is high incidence of degrading treatment meted out to women suspected of witchcraft."

Mr. Dajia pointed out that his outfit has identified four witch camps in the region with a total inmates of 535 women suspected to be witches at Gambaga, Kukuo, Ngani and Kpatinga communities.

The problem of forced marriage, he said, women or the girl child is deprived of her right to self determination and personal dignity, and the situation shows no sign of decline.

He cited a case involving a three-month pregnant girl at Saboba, who was tortured to death by her brother and colleagues for resisting their attempt to force her into a marriage she did not consent to. Statistics show that CHRAJ received 181 cases of forced marriage in 2007.

On the Kayaye menace, a situation where hundreds of young girls move from the north to the south for non-existent jobs, the Commission believes that "a serious commitment by Government to boost the rice, cotton, sheanut, vegetable and livestock industries through the provision of subsidy, irrigation and processing facility will be the surest way to generate employment for the victims of kayaye and other unemployed youth in the region."

According to CHRAJ, as part of their monitoring exercise, they found that the health delivery system in the northern part of Ghana "is still far from meeting the minimal standard of normal health delivery in the country."

The Commission has therefore entreated government to take the rehabilitation of the Tamale Teaching Hospital seriously to enable it take its rightful place as a teaching referral hospital.

To the Commission, last year's heavy floods that hit many communities in the region "left behind serious human rights issues for the region to grabble with."

CHRAJ say in effect of the disaster, the right to life, property, education, shelter, food and clothing which are guaranteed in local and international human rights instruments were all undermined.

According to the CHRAJ Regional boss, for the Northern Region to enjoy the full benefit of its human and material resources, there is the need to pay serious attention "to securing peace which can only be guaranteed when the culture of fundamental human rights and freedoms is allowed to flourish."

By Fred Tetteh Alarti-Amoako

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