Participants in a workshop on gender empowerment, child marriage and adolescent reproductive health, have called on police officers to give the necessary support, protection and encouragement to victims of domestic violence who visit police stations to lodge complaints.
The participants blamed the police “for either sending victims away or being insensitive to their plights by making comments that made victims to feel guilty for what they had suffered”, and thereby discouraging them from pursuing their cases, not only to get justice but also to obtain the needed support which includes counselling and protection from danger.
They argued that the environment at the police stations, which are mostly the first port of call for such victims, should be friendly to such victims, devoid of intimidation and fear by any police officer.
The participants included regional directors from the Department of Gender under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, civil society organisations, representatives from the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service( DOVVSU), the media and policy makers.
Gender empowerment and equity
The two-day workshop was organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to introduce the participants to the all-gender component sensitive guidelines, strategies and advocacy tool kits on gender empowerment and equity.
According to the participants, some police officers were also to be blamed for the kind of questions they posed to victims of rape, for instance, asking them what they were wearing and also asking people who had reported threats of domestic violence on them to go back and wait until they had become victims before coming to report.
They added that some wives were also asked by the police to ignore brutalities from their husbands since they were fortunate to get men to marry them.
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The participants, therefore, called for capacity building workshops for police officers to make them more responsive to the needs of domestic violence victims.
The Greater Accra Regional Director of the Department of Gender, Mrs Comfort Asare, said some complaints from the public to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, confirmed the fears expressed by the participants.
The National Coordinator for DOVVSU, Mrs Evelyn Bobo, who was also a participant in the workshop, explained that in addition to the fact that the Ghana Police Service had basic knowledge of domestic violence management and the Domestic Violence Act, the service had put in place some measures to periodically build the capacities of police officers to address such challenges.
“ The Director-General- CID, Commissioner of Police ( COP) Mrs Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Dankwa, is so passionate about issues of domestic violence and the management of such cases, and has, therefore, ensured constant capacity building programmes for staff of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service to ensure maximum service delivery.
“The Domestic Violence Act does not seek to break homes or marriages but seeks to find amicable solutions to domestic violence cases and only punishes when necessary to deter people from indulging in domestic violence,” she said.
The workshop introduced participants to a newly developed guideline document by the UNFPA, outlining how to effectively engage men and boys as critical stakeholders to end child marriage and adolescent health challenges, as well as to review the performance of a UNFPA-UNICEF child marriage advocacy tool kit to enhance outputs.