Traditional leaders urged to declare zero-tolerance for SGBV

By Philip Tengzu

Wa, (UW/R), Dec. 02, GNA – Traditional leaders have been urged to declare a zero-tolerance for Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in their traditional jurisdictions by enacting and enforcing by-laws against such acts.

“Gender-based violence is much more normalised in our communities, but if the message is clear out there that once you abuse your wife or daughter you are going to get sanctioned by the traditional institution, perhaps people will be deterred from dishing out violent acts against people and we may be able to reduce sexual and gender-based violence”, Dr. Constance Akurugu explained.

Dr. Akurugu, a Gender Lecturer at the SD Dombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies (SDD-UBIDS), said this in Wa during a stakeholder engagement forum on promoting positive social norms towards ending SGBV in the Upper West Region.

OXFAM organised the forum in partnership with Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), RUWA Ghana and the Upper West Regional Department of Gender as part of the implementation of the European Union (EU)-funded ENOUGH project.

It brought together Gender Desk Officers, representatives of Civil Society Organisations, government agencies and departments and Community Child Marriage Combat Groups among others.

The Gender Lecturer observed that SGBV was pervasive in societies because women and girls were perceived as subordinate and inferior to men and socio-cultural norms abhorred survivors of SGBV seeking redress from the law enforcement agencies such as the police.

She said community members ought to know the various forms of SGBV and the available legal frameworks against it because some people inflicted that violence on women and girls without knowing they constituted SGBV.

Dr. Akurugu urged traditional and religious leaders to leverage community fora and durbars to create awareness on the deleterious effects of SGBV on the psychological health, economic empowerment and well-being of women and girls.

Meanwhile, Madam Lois Aduamoah Addo, Programmes Manager of WiLDAF, said though there were laws against SGBV, the high fees charged for medical examination of its survivors had been a major setback to the fight against the menace.

She said the Domestic Violence (DV) Act, 2007 (Act 732) had made medical examination for SGBV free but survivors were still required to pay between Gh₵500.00 and Gh₵2000.00 for medical examination due to limited consultation with the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) when enacting the law.

“Many of the survivors of rape and defilement or any SGBV do not have that amount of money to pay for the medical examination.

Many of them are poor people living in our communities that people take advantage of, but the examination is also key in assisting police in prosecuting such cases”, Madam Addo explained.

She said the DV Act was undergoing review and expressed the hope that the gap between the GMA law and the DV Act in terms of the medical examination fees would be bridged.

She said limited knowledge on the DV Act and inadequate resources for the implementation of the laws had been a major challenge to the implementation of the Act.

DSP Mr Adongo Apiiya, the Upper West Region Coordinator, Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU), observed that SGBV in the region was alarming and needed collective efforts of all to address.

He said the lack of support from survivors of SGBV to arrest and prosecute suspects of SGBV remained a challenge and inhibited the fight against the act.

He, however, assured the people of getting justice when they reported such cases to the DOVVSU and assisted in investigations.