Kumasi, Sept 20, GNA - The National House of Chiefs (NHC) has expressed the view that the criminalization of all spousal issues including rapes under the Domestic Violence Bill and the attendant punitive measures of arrest, fine and custodial sentences does not provide the intended redress but a recipe for the disintegration of the family unit.
The House therefore suggested the setting up of community counselling and mediation centres with traditional rulers as key players to deal with such cases first before they were passed on to the law courts.
This was the consensus during an open forum at a consultative meeting with the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC), organized by the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD) to enable the chiefs to give their inputs into the domestic violence bill before it is passed into law.
The House also expressed dissatisfaction about what it described as a subtle means of taking away certain mandatory powers from them by not involving them in the current Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanisms being pursued to ease congestion of cases in the law courts.
The chiefs maintained that historically, the chieftaincy institution played pivotal roles in dispute resolution and arbitration on all issues including domestic violence and therefore eliminating them could be perceived as down playing their important role in society. Daasebre Dr Oti Boateng, Omanhene of New Juaben Traditional Area, pointed out that the fact that the bill singled out children and women as the only possible victims of domestic violence leaving out the men who also suffer violence in some forms, made the bill gender-biased and not neutral, as it seemed to portray thereby "constituting a shortcoming".
In a keynote address, Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, said the law in Ghana was inadequate for dealing with domestic violence and it was for that reason that the current government came out with the legislation to address violence in the domestic setting. She said the bill called for proactive roles for individuals, traditional authorities and other stakeholders and that "such a law which seeks to protect the very core of society, cannot be passed without the consultation of chiefs who are the custodians of traditions and culture".
In a welcoming address, Odeneho Gyapong Ababio II, President of the NHC, called on members to evaluate customary laws that were outmoded and socially harmful.
"Chiefs will not uphold any outmoded customs if it violates the fundamental rights of children," he added.