A former First Lady and women activist, Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, has expressed shock at the increasing spate of rape cases across the length and breadth of the country.
She believes the rape of under-aged girls has become more prevalent than ever before, and therefore stressed the urgent need for a concerted effort to nip it in the bud.
“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 dehumanising practice to an end,” she emphasised.
This was contained in a statement written and signed by the former first lady on 'International Women's Day,' which fell on Sunday, March 8, 2009.
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.
As a way forward, she pushed for the exposure of those who perpetuate such acts.
“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,” she noted.
Nana Konadu had cause to equally complain about the fact that women who report violence from their men folk face being ostracised, hence their preference to endure the violence in silence.
For her, “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.”
While calling on the government to play its role by condemning unequivocally, violence against women, and equipping institutions such as the Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) and the Department of Social Welfare, so they can adequately investigate issues of violence against women, she said, “it is imperative that we all come together as one force, to tackle this problem.”
Considering the fact that women's contribution to the development of society was immeasurable, she cautioned, “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.”
The former first lady took the opportunity to commend President Mills for significant women appointments he has made in his government, expressing hope that such appointments were 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.
Furthermore, the Nana Konadu, who is also the President of the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM), expressed optimism 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, would be in a better position, resource-wise, to perform their roles.
To her, a good beginning would be a national offender's register, which will be publicised in the media, to serve as a major deterrent to would-be offenders.
That notwithstanding, she congratulated Ghanaian women for the strides they had made over the past year in enhancing the quality of womanhood in Ghana.
In this part of the world, where 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, she emphasised, “we have made inroads over the years.”
She, however, noted that women empowerment was not about getting women in important positions in society, but giving women the confidence and comfort to perform their roles in society, without subtle intimidation from men. Nana Konadu believes violence against women was still a scourge in the Ghanaian society, with the majority of victims unable to publicly declare their pain.
In appreciating the significant role played by the DOVVSU of the Ghana Police Service, in giving victims succour and serving as a deterrent to perpetrators of such violence, she emphasised that such institutions were so ill-equipped that they were powerless when it comes to real prevention.
She described as significant, the call by the United Nations for men to play an active role, since the 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,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, recent research has revealed that religious and other traditional practices still tend to sideline women and impose on them a subordinative status. Indications are that 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.