The Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service in Upper West has urged Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to speed up the process of establishing Domestic Violence Support Fund.
The Unit believes setting up of the fund as enshrined in DOVVSU Act of 2007, Section 29 (Act 732), will aid many poor victims of rape and defilement to access justice since the prevailing situation hinders prosecution of perpetrators.
Inspector Stella Niabi of the Wa Regional DOVVSU made the call during the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child organised by Plan Ghana in Wa.
The University for Development Studies in Wa Campus played both hosts and guests to highlight the trauma rape and defilement victims endure.
A chilling audio was played on Radio Upper West about how a UDS student was raped and got pregnant but was subsequently abandoned by her parents after she refused to abort for fear of medical complications.
She also narrated the ordeal she went through two months after birth and had to abandon the newborn baby to write her semester examination which subjected her to excruciating physical and psychological conditions.
Medical reports form fundamental component to prosecution of defilement and rape cases, according to DOVVSU, form core evidence but victims are required to pay a fee for its production.
But Inspector Niabi said: “Currently no money or funds is set aside and so victims of rape and defilement had to bear their medical cost” which many were unable to pay.
The medical charges are reported pegged around GHc300.00 for the production of a report.
“Most of them the victims do not have the money, so out of our own pockets we do pay some of the medical bills on humanitarian grounds”, Inspector Niabi said and added that “It is hindering investigations and prosecutions”.
Many perpetrators of rape and defilement are adults and usually come from influential homes and can afford to have money to hire services of lawyers who vigorously defend them in the law courts.
According to her, unfortunately the victims who are often children aged as low as ten or even nine could not afford any legal or medical fees because most of their parents were extremely poor.
She therefore appealed to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection as well as district assemblies to consider establishing the fund so that victims of domestic violence particularly rape and defilement could benefit from it since most of them were teenagers.
Dr Abdulai, the Ag Director of Ghana Health Service, Upper West expressed worry about medical reports are not covered by the national health insurance scheme.
But said: “When you go to hospital and you face any challenges in accessing healthcare approach the management for assistance.
He also advised alleged rape and defilement victims not to bath or clean their private part (vagina) when they are sexually assaulted, saying: “Just leave it like that as evidence for DOVVSU”.
Ms Umufadilu Zakaria, a student of UDS in Campus, told the Ghana News Agency that the current jail term for rape and defilement culprits of five to 25 years was not deterrent enough since most perpetrators are able to bulldoze their way through.
She appealed to lawmakers to consider tougher punishment, aside the jail term, for perpetrators of rape and defilement.
The Fund, if established by the state would seek to provide basic material support for victims of domestic violence including rape and defilement victims.
In April 2017, the Accra High Court ordered the government to allocate money to the Fund to help provide free medical care for victims but it is yet to be allocated.
Ghana recorded 84,142 cases of sexual and gender-based violence nationwide from 2009 to 2013, but the figure could be higher in 2018.