LET'S FIGHT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, GIRLS – STATEMENT BY NANA KONADU AGYEMAN RAWLINGS ON OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
On the occasion of International Women's Day, I congratulate Ghanaian women for the strides they have made over the past year in enhancing the quality of womanhood in Ghana.
This year's theme "Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls” is particularly significant because of the emphasis on the role men have to play in ensuring that women are treated with dignity and as co-equals in society.
In our part of the world a call by women for equality and respect is usually met with grunts by many of the opposite sex who see such comments as uncalled for and misplaced because a significant number of women occupy positions of importance in various political and social establishments.
Clearly we have made inroads over the years but women empowerment is not about getting women in important positions in society. It is about giving women the confidence and comfort to perform their roles in society without the subtle intimidation from men.
Violence against women is still a scourge in our society with majority of victims unable to publicly declare their pain because we still have a system in place that does little to protect victims.
The Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service has played a significant role in giving victims succor and serving as a deterrent to perpetrators of such violence but such institutions are so ill-equipped they are powerless when it comes to real prevention.
The call by the United Nations for men to play an active role is significant because a minority of men in society perpetrate violence against women even though the stigma tends to affect a more significant percentage. Men have their image to protect and the only way they can do so is to ensure that they help nip the scourge in the bud through peer pressure, education of their colleagues and a conscious effort not to abuse their physical advantage.
Recent research has revealed that religious and other traditional practices still tend to sideline women and impose on them a subordinate status. Girls are still prevented from attending school and in some societies female genital mutilation is still practiced even though its health and trauma effects have been widely exposed and laws passed to make it illegal.
Women who report violence from their men folk face being ostracized and will prefer to endure the violence in silence. What is worse is religious attitudes that compel women to play second fiddle to men and stand by them come what may even in the face of wife battery and marital rape.
Rape of under-aged girls is even more prevalent now than it was before and our men folk have to join hands in ensuring that we bring this dehumanizing practice to an end.
Exposing our colleagues who perpetuate such acts will be one way forward. We also need to assist our womenfolk in educating the girl child on preventive and reporting mechanisms as a lot of such young victims do not even understand what has happened to them until they fall ill and are compelled to explain what caused their illness.
While calling on government to play its role by condemning unequivocally violence against women and equipping institutions such as DOVVSU and the Department of Social Welfare so they can adequately investigate issues of violence against women, it is imperative that we all come together as one force to tackle this problem.
Women's contribution to the development of society is immeasurable. If we allow antiquated practices to obviate our judgement and overlook abuse of women and girls in our society, we will be setting a very bad precedent for the generations of the future.
I take this opportunity to commend President Mills for significant women appointments he has made in his government. We hope such appointments are not decorations to fulfill campaign promises but a conscious desire by the Mills administration to tap the wealth of female talent that abounds in Ghana.
We pray that by this time next year state institutions responsible for enforcing laws on domestic violence and other forms of outlawed violence against women and children will be in a better position resource wise to perform their roles.
A good beginning will be a national offenders' register which is publicized in the media to deserve as a major deterrent to will be offenders.
Signed: Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings