Tuesday, November 13, 2007
‘Culture clashes with laws on child
Story: HILDA OWUSU
THE issue of culture clashing with the laws of the land in respect of the protective rights of the child took centre stage at a meeting organized by the Ghana NGO coalition on the Rights of the Child.
“When the laws of the land clash with culture, the laws of the land must supersede culture”.
These were the remarks of the National Co-ordinator of the Coalition, Mrs. Susan Sabaa, when she presented in Accra a paper on the “Situation of the child in Ghana and Frameworks for Intervention” as part of activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the coalition.
She argued that under the UNICEF Convention 2005, child protection “is the strengthening of country environments, capacities and responses to prevent and protect children from violence, exploitation abuse, neglect and the effects of conflicts”.
She explained that protection in that context referred to a sustained action aimed at ensuring the continued survival and development of the child without which all the gains made through early immunization would be derailed.
On the situation in Ghana, Mrs. Sabaa says it is unfortunate that a law in Ghana clearly states that any girl under the age of 17 is not allowed to marry.
However, the country faces the situation where a father can force his 11-years-old daughter into marriage because culture demands that when the girl begins menstruation, she is a woman and could therefore be pushed into marriage.
Mrs. Sabaa recounted the different forms of child abuse in Ghana, on a daily basis, by loved ones in the name of culture.
She named some of the causes of the situation as the weak institutional capacity to deliver on their mandate and weak enforcement of child protection laws as a result of inadequate institutional mechanisms to enforce legislation.
She maintained that he causes had the negative effect of leading to child labour, child trafficking, streetism, child pornography and harmful practices.
Mrs. Sabaa said the country had a very young population, pointing out that the 200 census showed that children 19-years-old and below constituted 52 percent of the total population.
The census again revealed that children under 15 constituted about 4 per cent, while in terms of age distribution by locality, it showed that 46 per cent of the child population was in the rural areas as against 35 per cent in the urban settings.
She recommended that the UN Convention on the rights of the child, which created a favourable climate reform, should be pursued because it defined principles and norms for the status of children.
The principles, according to her, represent a new attitude towards children which give political, ideological and ethical dimensions to the convention.
Mrs. Sabaa also mentioned the Millennium Development goals (MDGs), National Policy guidelines on orphans and vulnerable children, Street Children policy, the Domestic Violence Act and the Draft Child Labour Policy as frameworks that would support interventions of the coalition.
A Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, Mr. Daniel Dugah, commended the forum, saying it was high time children were given the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives.
He says that in Ghanaian culture, children are hardly given the right to decide what profession to pursue, especially when it runs contrary to what the parents have in mind.
He urged parents to encourage their children to pursue their god-given rights in, for instance, dancing, arts and painting, which in recent times had become even more lucrative than professions such as law, medicine and engineering.
Daily Graphic - Tuesday, November 3, 2007 Page: 11