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GHANAIAN WOMEN DEMANDING PROTECTION FROM VIOLENCE

INTERNATIONAL

By Raymond Archer - WEnews correspondent

ACCRA, Ghana (WOMENSENEWS) --A recent spate of spousal killings in this West African country has cast a spotlight on the divide between high-ranking authorities who have enacted reforms to end violence and discrimination against women and the less powerful officials whose lack of resources and reluctance to enforce those reforms are hampering such efforts.

After he was elected in December 2000, Ghanaian President J.A. Kufour appointed two women to oversee two new ministries created specifically to act on behalf of the country's women and girls: the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs and the Ministry of Education's Girl-Child Education Unit. Kufour also established the Women's Endowment Fund to assist women entrepreneurs and affirmed the need for the Women and Juvenile Unit of the country's police service, which was created in 1998 to address an increase in cases of abuse against women and children.

But in a country that has largely escaped the civil conflicts that have roiled its neighbors in the region and where violent crime is still somewhat of an anomaly, police say violence against women is increasing. At least seven women were killed in the course of two weeks this spring by their husbands or companions over alleged infidelities. More than 30 women have been murdered over the last five years by what authorities describe as a serial killer or gang, and no one has been convicted in connection with the slayings.

Four men are currently standing trial for killing their wives. The trial of 36-year-old Charles Quansah, accused of the serial murders, also opened Wednesday.

Gladys Asmah, the Women and Children's Affairs Minister, recently condemned the killings, describing a dangerous, emerging culture in the country in which men lash out violently against women, not over alleged transgressions, but to control women's sexuality and sexual behavior.

"We find the increasing rate of domestic violence unacceptable . . . domestic squabbles can be resolved without the use of violence or guns," Asmah said. "Men should not take the law into their own hands and resort to the use of guns to punish their wives."

Hundreds of Women Take to Streets

Galvanized by Asmah's remarks, hundreds of women took to the streets in the capital of Accra on April 6 to protest the killings.

Carrying signs that read, "Stop killing us," "Stop the violence against women," and "Women are also human beings," protesters led by Sisters' Keepers, a coalition of women's rights activists, accused the country's courts of failing to punish men who have tortured and attacked women. Such complicity, they said, has created a climate of acceptance of violence against women in Ghana.

"The abuse of women in Ghana is alarming," said Esther Appiah, the commanding officer for the Women and Juvenile Unit of the police force. "There is too much superiority complex among their male counterparts. They think women cannot think on their own; they think women are part of their property. Some Ghanaian men even think women don't have sense and so they should decide what a woman should do."

Appiah said that while more women are reporting domestic violence, many of them continue to take the abuse, intimidated by the stigma and embarrassment heaped on victims and the long delay between reporting and the resolution of a case in the courts.

Many people, moreover, don't even know her agency exists, Appiah said. The unit has only seven branches in six of Ghana's 10 regions, and one outpost per region is not enough to address the crimes reported to officials, she said. In Accra alone last year, the agency received as many as 204 cases of defilement, defined as sex with a girl younger than 12 years old, 262 cases of assault, 58 cases of rape and 16 cases of indecent assault, or forcibly touching the buttocks, breasts or other parts of a woman.

"Women don't even know what options are available to them when they are abused," said Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, executive director of The Ark Foundation, a non-governmental organization that works for women and children's rights. In addition, she said, "There is so much societal pressure on these victims that they refuse to bring the perpetrators to the sanction table. Most Ghanaian women prefer not for their husbands and family members to be jailed, but rather an order to stop them from abusing them."

Tradition Trumps Progressive Laws

The power of tradition also prevents local officials from enforcing reforms, Dwamena-Aboagye added.

In 1998, Parliament added new definitions of sexual offenses to existing laws and increased punishments for others. Legislators banned the practice of "Trokosi," in which young girls are forced into slavery to atone for offenses committed by family members. They also protected women accused of witchcraft, doubled the mandatory sentence for rape, criminalized indecent assault and forced marriages and increased punishments for incest and child prostitution.

But such official condemnation hasn't eliminated these practices or female genital mutilation, which the women's ministry says is still conducted in more than a third of rural communities in Ghana.

Appiah said that her agency recently began an outreach project in schools and churches to educate people about how to prevent violence against women.

"We are educating them to know that there is the need to report abuses when they occur," she said, adding that legislators should also review the country's laws, which some judges have cited in dismissing domestic violence cases because the say the offense as charged is not criminal according to current law.

A spokesman for President Kufour could not be reached for comment. But a judge in Accra, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, admitted that he sometimes dismisses domestic violence cases, arguing that there are no laws for such offenses. "It is un-Ghanaian for a man to be sentenced into imprisonment because he slapped or pushed his wife," the judge said.

Dearth of Women in Government an Obstacle to Enforcement

Laws protecting women and girls would be better enforced if more women occupied decision-making roles in government, but women are often dissuaded from participating, Dwamena-Aboagye said. Of the 200 members in Parliament, 17 are women. Of the 79 ministers of state, six are women. Seven out of the 110 district chief executives in Ghana are women. And no woman has been appointed as a regional minister.

"The political parties and institutions of governance are all dominated by men," Dwamena-Aboagye said. "Women have to behave like men to survive and they end up being called derogatory names."

Emelia Arthur, coordinator of Sisters' Keepers, said the April 6 demonstration marked the beginning of a massive campaign to combat violence against Ghanaian women. She said the group would take its fight to the country's attorney general, its minister for the interior and the inspector general of police.

"Some of the men have threatened to continue killing us and so you know that we have a long way to fight," Arthur said.

Raymond Archer is a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle, the largest independent daily newspaper in Ghana.

For more information:

AFROL.Com - Gender Profiles: Ghana: - http://www.afrol.com/Categories/Women/profiles/ghana_women.htm

BBC NEWS - "Fury over women's killings in Ghana": - http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_819000/819744.stm

Africa Recovery - "Liberating girls from 'trokosi' - Campaign against ritual servitude in Ghana": - http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol15no4/154troko.htm

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This is more evidence that women are stil oppressed throughout the world; fueled by sexist mythology, religous and cultural brainwashing and domination. Racism and Sexism are twins of the same mother. Women throughout the world and throughout history have and are still suffering the same contempt, discrimination, abuse, and mis-education as black have suffered in this country in the past and often times still and throughout the world.
quote:
Originally posted by sunnubian:
This is more evidence that women are stil oppressed throughout the world; fueled by sexist mythology, religous and cultural brainwashing and domination. Racism and Sexism are twins of the same mother. Women throughout the world and throughout history have and are still suffering the same contempt, discrimination, abuse, and mis-education as black have suffered in this country in the past and often times still and throughout the world.


Yes, it is barbaric conduct against women throughout the world. The globalization curtain that has been lifted shows us just how dangerous the world we live in is. With Internet access to the women of Africa I have learned of the horror under which they live because of their brute mates conduct that as the article and ten thousand more I could pull show, African males while bouncing up and down for their freedom refuse to free African women who are sorely begging we black women in the west to aid them.

Do continue to speak out on their behalf as they don't have access to computers as we have. As you know, blacks in the west, the righteous among us, fought the white oppressor and put laws on the books that benefit us blacks in this region, and blacks worldwide. One of the good things blacks did was get Affirmative action on the books to allow a door opening that white males prior to this refused to open.

In a diverse society such as is the U.S. a 'affirmative action' bill should be a national law as in our case, the white oppressor's nature has been shown up as bias and unfair, affirmative actions does not change that inhumane nature rather it checks it, and should be seen as just that, 'a check on the white racist nature.'

At any rate, I enjoyed conversing with you, I'll put more articles up in the future but until then do keep speaking out for African women as if not us, then who? The brute who oppresses them, not hardly.
Sun Nubian here are additional articles revealing the barbarity African males exact against the African woman. Now anyone with COMMON SENSE knows they are so grateful for any help to alleviate brute conduct so I'm putting information out and requesting black women who are prayers to pray for these women and do what's in our individual and collective power to save them from the savagery of African males.
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» Fighting Female Genital Mutilation in Africa
» Abuse of women escalates HIV infections in Africa
» Women's health at risk in Africa
» HIV & AIDS in Africa now

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afrol.com, 21 September - At least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way, usually by an intimate partner or family member, according to a new report by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA. In Africa, domestic violence, rape and other sexual abuse and female genital mutilation are of special concern.
Documenting the extent of the problem, The State of World Population 2000 report says that gender-based violence constitutes a life-long threat for hundreds of millions of girls and women around the world. Gender-based violence - in various forms including rape, domestic violence, "honour" killings and trafficking in women - exacts a heavy toll on mental and physical health. Increasingly, gender-based violence is recognized as a major public health concern and a serious violation of basic human rights.

The problem seems worst in Asia and in the Muslim world. However, African women are subject to a range of oppressive threats.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms:

At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be expected to be alive are "missing" from various populations, mostly in Asia, as a result of sex-selective abortions, infanticide or neglect;
Studies suggest domestic violence is widespread in most societies and is a frequent cause of suicides among women;
Rape and other forms of sexual violence are increasing. Many rapes go unreported because of the stigma and trauma associated with them and the lack of sympathetic treatment from legal systems. Estimates of the proportion of rapes reported to authorities vary "” from less than 3 per cent in South Africa to about 16 per cent in the United States;
Two million girls between ages 5 and 15 are introduced into the commercial sex market each year;
At least 130 million women have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation or cutting; another 2 million are at risk each year from this degrading and dangerous practice;
So-called "honour" killings take the lives of thousands of young women every year, mainly in Western Asia, North Africa and parts of South Asia. At least 1,000 women were murdered in Pakistan in 1999.
Domestic violence
Many cultures condone or at least tolerate a certain amount of violence against women. In parts of South Asia, Western Asia and Africa, for instance, men are seen as having a right to discipline their wives as they see fit. The right of a husband to beat or physically intimidate his wife is a deeply held conviction in many societies.

Even women often view a certain amount of physical abuse as justified under certain conditions. For instance, 80 per cent of women surveyed in rural Egypt said that beatings were common and often justified, particularly if the woman refused to have sex with her partner.

In a study in Ghana, close to half of all women and 43 per cent of men said a man was justified in beating his wife if she used a family planning method without his expressed consent.

Justification for violence stems from gender norms - distorted views about the roles and responsibilities of men and women in relationships. Worldwide, studies have shown a consistent pattern of events that trigger violent responses. These include: not obeying the husband, talking back, refusing sex, not having food ready on time, failing to care for the children or home, questioning the man about money or girlfriends or going somewhere without his permission.

Sexual abuse and rape
In South Africa, the incidence of rape is thought to be the highest in the world. Forced or unprotected sex puts women at risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Rape victims are especially at risk of infection. Up to 30 per cent of women raped in the United States every year, for instance, develop an sexually transmitted disease as a result.

Molestation of young girls is another profoundly disturbing aspect of this problem. A study in Zaria, Nigeria, for example, found that 16 per cent of hospital patients with sexually transmitted infections were under age 5. At the Genito-Urinary Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, doctors discovered that more than 900 children under age 12 had been treated for a sexually transmitted disease in 1990 alone.

Physical and sexual abuse also increases a woman's risk for a number of common gynaecological disorders, including chronic pelvic pain. In many countries, chronic pelvic pain accounts for up to 10 per cent of all visits to gynaecologists and one quarter of all hysterectomies.

Women who are abused or afraid to raise the issue of family planning with their partners are at risk of repeated unwanted pregnancies. Many abused women seek abortions. Violence has also been linked with increased risk of miscarriages, premature labour, foetal distress and low birth weight.

"Honour" Killings
Throughout the world, perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are murdered by members of their own families, many of them for the "dishonour" of having been raped, often as not by a member of their own extended family. Many forms of communally sanctioned violence against women, such as "honour" killings, are associated with the community's or the family's demand for sexual chastity and virginity.

In Egypt, a father paraded his daughter's severed head through the streets shouting, "I avenged my honour."

Such killings have been reported in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom, according to the report. The report says that "honour" killings tend to be more prevalent in, but are not limited to, countries with a majority Muslim population. It adds, however, that Islamic leaders have condemned the practice and say it has no religious basis.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Many societies in Africa and Western Asia practise FGM, often referred to as female circumcision. Worldwide, some 130 million girls and young women have undergone this dangerous and painful practice, with an additional 2 million at risk each year.

FGM is practised in about 28 countries in Africa - where the prevalence varies widely, from 5 per cent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 98 per cent in Somalia - and in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region. It also occurs among some minority groups in Asia, and among immigrant women in Europe, Canada and the United States.

FGM refers to the removal of all or part of the clitoris and other genitalia. Those who perform the more extreme form, infibulation, remove the clitoris and both labia and sew together both sides of the vulva. This leaves only a small opening to allow passage of urine and menstrual blood. Infibulation accounts for an estimated 15 per cent of all cases of FGM, and 80-90 per cent of cases in Djibouti, Somalia and the Sudan.

This terrible violation of girls' and young women's human rights is based on prevailing beliefs that female sexuality must be controlled, and the virginity of young girls preserved until marriage. Men in some cultures will not marry uncircumcised girls because they view them as "unclean" or sexually permissive.

Genital mutilation is nearly always carried out in unsanitary conditions without anaesthetic. It is also extremely painful and may result in severe infection, shock or even death. If the girl survives, she may experience painful sexual intercourse, degrading the quality of her life.

In some cases, FGM can lead to sterility. A study carried out in the Sudan found that women who had undergone FGM were twice as likely to be infertile as women who had not. In traditional societies, infertility is a particularly devastating condition, since a woman's worth in many of these cultures is measured by her ability to bear children.

NGOs Work against Gender Violence
NGOs' work worldwide on violence against women is one of the most important contributions to ending gender-based oppression.

Through the work of African NGOs, with the support of international organizations, FGM is being challenged and the practice outlawed, giving millions of girls and women hopes for a life with rights, health and security. The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, a network of affiliates in 26 African and 3 European countries, has led the increasingly successful fight against FGM through public awareness campaigns and training in schools, and communities with traditional and trained medical staff.

In South Africa, where the incidence of rape is thought to be the highest in the world, a group called WomenNet used the Internet for a Stop Rape campaign supported by international signatories. The government is now setting up 20 specialized "rape courts", the first such initiative in the world.


Source: UNFPA
http://www.afrol.com/Categories/Women/wom003_violence_unfpa.htm

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