Gender-based violence and violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world.
It knows no social, economic or national boundaries.
Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.
Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence.
Victims of violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and even death.
The Chief Director of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Dr Afisah Zakariah, buttressed these statements at a workshop in Accra when she described gender-based violence as a grave violation of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of its victims, mostly women and girls.
She said despite leaving victims with traumatising effects, gender-based violence had been internalised by societies in such a manner that it was considered a private matter that should not be discussed outside the home.
That, she said, led to the protection of perpetrators who got away with such criminal acts, warning that gender-based violence was criminal and should be handled as such.
The chief director made the statement at a workshop organised by the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Accra to sensitise religious leaders and heads of schools to sexual and gender-based violence.
Dr Zakariah said gender-based violence still persisted, with cases of rape, defilement, domestic violence and assault on the rise.
Statistics from the Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service indicate that reported rape cases reduced from 316 in 2015 to 236 in 2016, but increased to 311 in 2017.
Defilement cases also reduced from 1,198 in 2015 to 722 in 2016 but increased to 793 in 2017, while cases of assault also reduced from 5,494 in 2015 to 4,190 in 2016, but increased to 5,019 in 2017.
In his presentation, a clinical psychologist, Mr Adolf Awuku Bekoe, said cultural beliefs and values in some communities that discriminated against women and girls was a leading cause of sexual and gender-based violence.
Mr Bekoe, who is also the National Coordinator of the Coalition on Domestic Violence Legislation, said the enforcement of the patriarchal arrangement in the Ghanaian society gave males inherent superiority in the home, with the misinterpretation of some religious beliefs also compounding the problems, “making men more powerful than women”.
Consequently, Mr Bekoe, who is also a lecturer at the Methodist University College, said considering the fact that gender- based violence had serious implications on an individual that could ruin one’s life, there was the need for people to make personal commitment to stop the act, adding that “do not be a perpetrator or a victim”.
While society also had the responsibility to eschew domestic violence, Mr Bekoe said the State also needed to take the issue seriously by providing the needed resources for the Police Service to enforce the laws against domestic violence.
“The Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service which deals with domestic violence issues is 20 years and they still do the basic things they used to do.
The unit is understaffed and doesn’t even have shelter to keep a mother and her children who are being abused,” he lamented.