Campaign to address child marriage in Ghana gathers momentum

Dickens Thunde – National Director

While the age of sexual consent in Ghana is 16 years, teenage girls can’t marry till they are 18 years old! Meanwhile, the incidence of child marriage, while decreasing, is gaining greater concern in the country, reaching a point where urgent attention must be focused on addressing it.

In February 2017, the African Union held a workshop in Ghana on the subject matter. At the end of the workshop, the AU issued a statement in which it said the major objective of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of the media to better investigate and report on child marriage in Africa with a focus on addressing the root causes and the different facets of the issue and challenging all stakeholders towards ending the practice.

The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Otiko Afisa Djaba, during the workshop, called for zero tolerance of child marriages in Africa.   

Meanwhile, the former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection , Nana Oye Lithur, told a gathering on the sidelines of a UN meeting in New York last year that Ghana has outlined a holistic national strategy to combat child, early and forced marriages, to make the practice a high risk marital engagement, and called for collaboration with other African countries.

She was reported to have noted that, the holistic national strategy includes inter-ministerial action, feeding traditional and community leaders with updated information on the harmful impact of the practices, and collaboration with security agencies for enforcement of laws.

Other engagements, she said, would involve non-governmental and civil society organisations to lead national crusade against the practice, distribution of the comprehensive legal frame work, including the Children’s Act of 1998 that prohibits child marriages.

The World Vision, Ghana, a not-for-profit Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation is initiating a nationwide campaign to end child marriage. At a press briefing today, June 27, 2017 in Accra to announce the launch, the Country Director, Dickens Thunde citing the Ghana Demographic Health Survey 2014 said one in four women marry before the age of 18, representing 27 per cent.

“Furthermore, seven per cent are married by age 15. In the northern part of the country, the rates can be as high as 39 per cent. Child marriage rates are also higher in rural areas, 36 per cent, compared to urban areas – 19 per cent,” he said.

He indicated that child marriage disproportionately affects girls over boys: among men aged 20 to 49, only three per cent were married as boys before the age of 18, compared to 27 per cent of girls, he said.

“Even though there has been a decrease in the rates of child marriage in Ghana from 31.5 per cent in 2008 to 27.2 per cent in 2014, the current rates are still unacceptably high and need to be reduced immediately if Ghana is to meet the Social Development Goals target 5.3 which talks about the elimination of child, early and forced marriage and give every girl the right to realize her full potential,” Thunde pointed out.

The five-year Ghana campaign is themed, “End Child Marriage Now! It takes us All” under the global theme “It Takes a World to End Violence Against Children.”

While the global campaign by World Vision International and its global partners is seeking to end violence against children and to positively impact the lives of hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable boys and girls by 2021, the Ghana campaign aims to contribute to a 50 per cent reduction of child marriage by 2021.

The Campaign will seek to achieve that objective through improvement in the legal enforcement of child protection laws, especially the marriage Act 560 and seek to harmonise the sex consensual age of 16 with the marriage age of 18 years. It will also among others, seek to challenge social norms and eliminate harmful practices against children; improve policy implementation to end child marriage and strengthen institutions and faith communities to care and protect children form child marriage.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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