Religious bodies asked to regulate prayer camps

A workshop to discuss the national policy on improving conditions for person’s with disability (PWD), has been be held with a call on religious bodies to regulate the activities of prayer camps.

Ms Wend Abbey, Senior Technical Advisor of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC), who made the call, said the rights of PWDs are being violated in various prayer camps in the country without any laws serving as a check.

She made the remarks on Wednesday at an interactive training workshop for lawyers and other state human institutions in Accra, organised by the HRAC with funding from the United States.

She said the inclusion of Christian Council, Charismatic Centre and Ghana Pentecostal Council to check on the prayer camps would help regulate as well as control the demeaning treatment churned out to PWDs.

Ms Abbey noted that the physical abuse from the various prayer camps to mental health patients as well as other PWDs is too severe.

“Following a survey conducted by HRAC in the Ada East District, it was revealed that all forms of inhumane physical abuses ranging from chaining to sun bathing are churned out to victims as a form of discipline by operators of these prayers camps for wrongful behaviours,” she said.

Ms Abbey called for an extensive collaboration between traditional healers, care givers and health institutions to set up medical facilities around the various prayer camps as well as engage them and draw guidelines that would help cater for PWDs.

She asked journalists to holistically accord human rights stories with the needed attention that would help promote not only PWDs right but all citizenry’s rights.

Explaining the rationale behind the engagement with the lawyers, Ms Philomina Ahiable, Human Rights Clinic Manager, HRAC, said the workshop, which was the first and formal engagement with journalists, aimed at increasing knowledge on mental health disability and human rights in Ghana and encourage the application of international best practices amongst legal representatives on the delivery of justice for PWDs.

“It also aims at soliciting support from lawyers on the provision of legal aid for PWDs in Ghana,” she said.

The Human Rights Clinic Manager observed that the meeting which was part of activities scheduled under the HRAC’s project on Advocacy for Access to Justice and Improved response to challenges of PWDs would help make human rights concerning PWDs be at the centre of all policy formulation especially when they constitute an impoverish and marginalised group, characterised by lack of access to public health, education and other social services.

“Unfortunately, the legal framework protecting the rights of disabled persons in Ghana has been poorly implemented, and the rights provided for the law are frustrated in practice owing to lack of services, funds and facilities,” she said.

Ms Ahiable called for a concerted effort amongst stakeholders to efficiently help promote individual human rights in the country as it is an essential commodity for a country’s development.

Mr Francis Xavier Sosu, a Human Rights Lawyer, said there are serious constitutional infractions to the rights of the disable and until bold approaches are carried out; such rights would never be enjoyed.

He blamed government for not giving much credence to issues of PWDs saying: “If a parliamentarian, opposition or executive have the interest of PWDs at heart, they will raise issues after nine years of the passage of the PWDs Act,” he said.

He called for a collective responsibility by all citizenry towards the discourse and effective measures that would empower PWDs.

“Disability is not an inability, we all have an obligation to make life better for persons with disability,” he said.

The day’s training brought together lawyers and other stakeholders on the implementation of the PWD and Mental Health Act to devise strategies to address access to justice for the vulnerable and PWDs.

The participants called for collaborative and pragmatic measures amongst HRAC, government, institutions and stakeholders’ to help curb any injustices imposed on PWDs. GNA

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