The Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, has advised traditional rulers and community leaders not to attempt or intervene to settle child abuse cases at home.
He said child abuse of any form was a criminal offence that had to be dealt with in order to curb it, since attempts to get such issues settled out of court only encouraged its recurrence.
He gave the advice when he inaugurated a Child-Friendly Gender-Based Violence Court (CF-GBVC) at Dormaa-Ahenkro in the Bono Region.
The establishment of the court is aimed at increasing access to justice for women and children, especially the vulnerable in the society.
Improve children’s evidence
The establishment of the court is part of measures to improve the quality and accuracy of children’s evidence, by addressing the challenges victims face in the process of seeking justice and contribute toward ending violence against women and children.
The refurbishment of the existing facility was jointly funded by UNICEF and the Judicial Service.
The court is specialised and fitted to address the corresponding special age appropriate requirements of children, to ease their burden as they go through the judicial system.
Among those special features it has been provided with are a child testifying room and a children’s playroom stocked with books and toys for the use of children when they have to wait during court proceedings.
Also, it has technological mechanisms such as a CCTV system, designed in a way that a child or a survivor will not have to encounter a perpetrator physically in the court.
Additionally, the facility is fitted with a Direct Transcription System which will facilitate the recording of proceedings at the court in real time so that same will be available by the close of the day.
Speaking at the inauguration of the court, Justice Anin Yeboah said the Gender-Based Violence Court concept was adopted by the Judiciary in response to calls to address promptly delays in the hearing of cases, especially sexual abuse cases.
He said the judicial service was committed to its long-term mission of improving the judicial infrastructure to conform to international best practice for efficient justice delivery.
The Chief Justice said the inauguration of the court was a demonstration of that commitment to address the challenges that confronted the service towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 which was dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.
Justice Anin Yeboah indicated that a yet-to-be finalised report on the levels and underlying challenges that confronted judges would be published soon while other ancillary services required to guide a judge to make effective progress on any case was, however, not readily available.
The Chief Justice mentioned the acquisition of medical reports, forensic and other social services as some of the levels and underlying challenges leading to attrition of gender based violence cases within the Judiciary.
Cost of violence
A Child Protective Specialist of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Ghana, Ms Hilda Mensah, said a study conducted by the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research ISSER) of the University of Ghana revealed that Ghana lost $19 million (GH¢73.5 million) as economic cost of violence against women and girls in 2019.
She said national estimates had shown that about GH¢18.7 million was spent annually on services and other expenditure in responding to fallout of sexual and gender-based violence.
Ms Mensah, also, said costing studies conducted by the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection in 2015 estimated that child abuse cost the Ghanaian economy between GH¢926 million and GH¢1.4 billion each year.
The Omanhene of the Dormaa Traditional Area, Osagyefo Oseadeeyo Agyemang Badu II, vowed to destool any sub-chief under him, who would attempt to settle child abuse cases, especially defilement.
Himself a Justice of the High Court, Osagyefo Agyemang Badu II, advised chiefs and community leaders to allow the law enforcement agencies and the court to handle such cases.
He appealed to the public, particularly spouses, to desist from all forms of violence against women and children.
The Bono Regional Minister, Ms Justina Owusu-Banahene, explained that peace and security were prerequisites for accelerated development and appealed to chiefs and people in the region to promote peace for development.
He called on the public to give relevant information to the police that could lead to the arrest of criminals for prosecution to deter others.
Ms Owusu-Banahene admonished the public to be vigilant, cautious and report child and women abuse to the police and urged judicial service workers who would be posted to the facility to exhibit high sense of professionalism in the discharge of their duties.