The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Ghana, has condemned the attempt by a father to force his 17-year-old daughter to marry a 60-year-old Nigerian.
A statement in Accra on Thursday said the father’s act contravened basic human rights tenets as enshrined in international and national instruments, such as the 1992 Constitution and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
It said this action also constituted a criminal offence under the Children’s Act.“Various concerns have already been expressed over this current incident and FIDA-Ghana adds her voice to condemn the attempt to marry off Muniratu Abdul Karim.”It said early betrothal of girls was a bane which reflected the inequities in our society. “The fact that this act of violence has its roots in customs and religious practices cannot be justified. As much as we must respect the norms and practices of our various communities, any dehumanising action inherent in our customs and religions that infringes upon the rights of women must be scrapped.”
FIDA noted that similar incidents had been occurring and despite punitive measures in our laws, only a few of such cases had been referred to the courts. It also noted that in February 2010, the Acting Northern Regional Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Alhassan Seidu, highlighted the increasing rate of forced marriages in the Eastern corridor of the region.
FIDA said there was a catalogue of forced marriages making news headlines.It said human rights activists and the media had been speaking out against these rights violations expecting to see an improvement, there had been little or no action to remedy the situation. FIDA observed that the laws of the country proscribed a fine of GH¢500 and a prison term or both for any parent who contravened the law.
It said since ignorance of the law did not exonerate any individual who broke the law, there must be consistent education in the communities to create awareness of the existence of this law. “Education on parental obligation and responsibilities must be integrated in all our civic programmes to inform the public that parents are oblige to provide education for their children to give them a good start in life.”
FIDA said the experiences of its community of paralegals in the communities, reinforced the importance of establishing a community response team to monitor and watch out for these violations, in order to stop them from happening. “Paralegals have had to hold regular meetings with head teachers in their communities to determine irregular attendance of both the girl and boy child, visit their homes in order to find out reasons for their absence in schools and often times educate parents on their obligations and responsibilities towards their children,” pointing out the advantages of providing education to both their girl and boy children.
FIDA said the teachers of the 17-year-old girl must be commended for raising the alarm and alerting the public on the incident. It called on the government and its agencies to put in place effective monitoring processes working together with the law enforcement agencies to ensure a co-ordinated response in dealing with the prevalent violation of the rights of young girls.