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Improve justice system to combat gender-based violence - University lecturer

BY: Edith Mensah
File photo
File photo

A lecturer at the Department of Health and Population at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Dr Addae Boateng Adu-Gyamfi, has urged relevant stakeholders to improve the entire value chain of judicial responses to gender-based violence (GBV) and domestic abuse.

He said improving the justice delivery system would be a viable strategy for combating GBV and its related situations.

Capacity building

He made the call during a workshop organised by the Central Regional Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) on GBV for administrative officers and assembly members in the Central Region with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

To help the fight, Dr Adu-Gyamfi called for a comprehensive approach that included treatment services, free legal aid for victims, increased traceability of at-risk individuals, police investigations, prosecution obligations and convictions that were in accordance with the country's laws.

"Gender-based violence must be addressed holistically and this can include enhancing the court reaction to such instances, allowing victims to receive legal assistance, and educating them about the harm that such cases create to the nation," he said.

He added that, "service providers, parliamentarians and public policy advocates should all be encouraged to share best practices for gender-based violence and domestic violence victims”.

Dr Adu-Gyamfi stressed that the judiciary could operate more efficiently if its workers' capabilities were strengthened and it was equipped with enough resources and logistics to respond to modern-day abuses.

"The capacity of the judiciary to respond to and manage gender-based violence and domestic violence cases must be enhanced.

“Additionally, the police unit must be equipped with forensic laboratories to investigate these rape and other abuse cases because in some cases, when you ask the victims to go to the hospital for these tests, they hold back because of the cost involved and subsequently drop the case, which is certainly not the best way to go about handling gender-based violence cases," he added.

Separation

He advocated the moving of DOVVSU facilities from the police headquarters, adding that it would make the facility more accessible to domestic abuse victims and make it easier to utilise.

Dr Adu-Gyamfi observed that the DOVVSU facilities' integration into the police headquarters made them more hostile to victims with preconceptions about the police and how they operated.

"Under normal circumstances, DOVVSU facilities must be separated from the police stations to allow victims to freely walk in to lodge complaints and seek redress.

"If you look at where DOVVSU is situated in Cape Coast, you walk in and there are two police officers with guns, which can largely scare vulnerable persons off and so, it would be more appropriate if these facilities are separated so that victims can walk in freely to seek redress," Dr Adu-Gyamfi said.

Sexual abuse

The Central Regional Coordinator of DOVVSU, Superintendent George Appiah-Sakyi, urged women in violent situations to speak up so that they could get help rather than suffer in silence, which could be devastating to their health.

He said any type of abuse by their spouses violated their human rights and dignity, and that women should not remain silent and allow their rights to be trampled upon in the name of marriage or even in everyday relationships.

Mr Appiah-Sakyi emphasised, “abusive relationships can hurt a woman physically or emotionally, sabotage her future aspirations, and make her economically unproductive and impoverished."

He further appealed to "men to try to safeguard their spouses from abuse so that they can stay happy and healthy at work and support their wives in caring for their kids."