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10.12.2005 Regional News

Workshop on domestic violence held in Takoradi

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Takoradi Dec.10 -GNA-Mrs Yaa Agyeman Boadi, a Senior Legal Officer of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WilDAF), on Thursday said the Domestic Violence Bill when passed into law would not lead to break-up of families.

She was speaking at a day's workshop on the Domestic Violence Bill for media personnel in the Western Region at Takoradi. The workshop, under the theme: "Domestic Violence Bill: The Role of the Media" forms part of WilDAF 16-days of Activitism Against Gender Violence.

Mrs Boadi said, "It is domestic violence that destroys and break up families".

She said the main purpose of the Bill is to unite families by preventing abuses and by providing protection and support to families through alternative dispute resolution, counselling and rehabilitation. Mrs Boadi said, "It is the Domestic Violence Bill that can provide restoration for families that have been destroyed by domestic violence".

Mrs Boadi said the Bill would provide protection for children, men and women, adding it is gender neutral and does not seek to protect any sex or group more than the other.

She said the Bill recognises, in accordance with available statistics, that most victims of domestic violence are women and children but provides the same measure of protection to men, women and children. Mrs Boadi said the Bill does not focus on "Marital Rape" but focus on sexual abuse in any form that occurs within domestic relationship. Mrs Sweetie Sowah, Regional Director of Legal Aid Board, said the criminalisation of domestic violence under the Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29) has its shortcomings.

She said the Code criminalizes assault and battery, incest, rape and defilement of a child of less than 16 years.

Mrs Sowah said the code also provides protection against customary practices that demean the quality of human life such as widowhood rites and early customary marriage.

Mrs Sowah said the punitive measures under the Code such as arrests and jail sentences do not promote the family as a unit of society, which is to safeguard the interest of children.

She said custodial sentences after protracted court processes, often do not provide victims with the redress they need and in a large number of cases, what is required is a prompt, cost effective and less traumatic means of redress.

Mrs Sowah said legislation on domestic violence would uphold provisions in the constitution on respect for human dignity and other human rights provisions.

She said it is also in accord with the International Commitments and Obligations of the country under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women ratified by Ghana in 1986 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 also ratified by Ghana.

"By ratifying these conventions, the Republic has taken on the obligation to protect certain groups and provide the special care and assistance required for the physical and mental well being of women and children, among others", Mrs Sowah said. She said, "The enactment of a domestic violence legislation will also confirm the commitment of Government to be proactive about domestic violence, an issue raised in the 2002 Amnesty International report on Ghana".