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11.02.2005 General News

Convention binds Ghana to pass Violence Bill - AWLA

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Accra, Feb. 11, GNA - The African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) on Friday said Ghana was under obligation to pass the Domestic Violence Bill because she had adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW), which she must adhere to. "This obligates the nation to adhere to the tenets of the convention," Nana Oye Lithur, AWLA Executive Member, stated in a working paper presented to Parliament.

AWLA reminded Parliament that under the DEVAW Convention, Ghana was supposed to implement effective mechanisms to ensure protection and the promotion of welfare of all, especially the vulnerable. Currently the law in Ghana is inadequate in dealing with domestic violence. This is principally due to the fact that it does not take into account the special circumstances of a domestic relationship and criminalizes all actions that may arise due to conflict in a domestic relationship.

AWLA noted that domestic violence was prevalent in most communities in Ghana and statistics showed that 90 per cent of the victims were women and children.

Nana Oye Lithur said studies also revealed that one in three women suffered from physical assault, explaining: "Any physical abuse, physical assault, forcible confinement, depriving the victim access to food, clothing and shelter constitute domestic violence." She explained that other forms of violence against women existed in Ghana and included wife beating, widowhood rites, female genital circumcision, abduction of girls and forcing them into marriage, rape, defilement and incest.

AWLA said, even though, laws on domestic violence existed under the present law, no mechanisms were in place to address causes of domestic violence or to implement prevention of domestic violence within Ghanaian communities.

She said the health implications for domestic violence and victim support structures had not been adequately institutionalised in Ghanaian laws hence the need for a comprehensive law, which would address all issues.

The Domestic Violence Bill defines domestic relationship, domestic violence and makes it mandatory for the Police to assist victims of domestic violence.

It also creates structures for using alternate dispute mechanisms to resolve issues of domestic violence for cases to be settled out of court. HIV/AIDS transmission through domestic violence is also integrated into the Bill.

Nana Oye Lithur said there was the need to provide support structures to facilitate the effective implementation of the law, adding that the Bill would have to be harmonized with the Criminal Code of Ghana.

"Police, court officials and healthcare officers would need to be trained to facilitate implementation of the law," AWLA stated. AWLA, therefore, urged Parliament to immediately collaborate with Cabinet for the passage of the Bill. 11 Feb. 05

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