We will work to eliminate statutory rape charges – Gender Minister

Adwoa Safo

Ms. Sarah Adwoa Safo, Minister for Gender, Children and Social protection (MoGCSP), has expressed commitment to providing protection and seeking justice for vulnerable groups in the country.

She said she would work to eliminate statutory charges associated with seeking medical reports for rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, which had become a major bottleneck for victims in accessing timely medical care and justice.

The Minister said this when she met with about 50 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Accra on Thursday, to deliberate on pertinent issues under the Ministry and to solicit ideas and recommendations on how to address such concerns.

It was also to afford the Minister the opportunity to strengthen the working relationships between the Ministry, the CSOs and NGOs.

There have been calls from human rights organisations recently to have charges demanded from victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence dropped to allow such persons to access medical care for free and on time.

Many CSOs had also opined that the request for such charges were not only an affront to seeking early medical care but also delayed processes at seeking justice for the victims and their families.

The Minister said: “We’ve had some letters come in from some of the CSOs about rape charges, I mean when you have to get a report from the medical officers on issues of rape and violence, the charges that are supposed to be paid.

“We will look at it and see how best we can waive some of these statutory payments to pave way for more protection for the vulnerable girls and women that we seek to protect,” she said.

She also stated her commitment to ensuring that the Affirmative Action Bill in Parliament was passed into law by the end of the year to enable women to have equal representation in decision-making.

The Bill has been pending in parliament for about 14 years awaiting passage.

The Affirmative Action Bill, when passed into Law, will require government to ensure equitable gender representation at all levels of governance and decision-making in the country.

Ms. Safo assured the CSOs of the Ministry’s readiness to collaborate with them, as well as other relevant agencies and Ministries to achieve the mission and vision of both parties.

“We take you very seriously as a Ministry because what you do actually goes to the benefits of what we also want to do for the country, so we will engage you more as our stakeholders and partners,” she said.

Dr Afisah Zakariah, Chief Director for the Ministry, said the Minister was soliciting more support in the form of funds into the Human Trafficking Fund to address issues of trafficking in the country.

She assured them of the Ministry’s commitment to continuously engage them to deliberate on issues affecting vulnerable groups.

The CSOs and NGOs urged government to retool departments and agencies under the Ministry to provide services effectively, address some of the social protection issues, and provide legal support for the poor and needy.

CSOs and NGOs present at the engagement include World Vision, Child Believe, CAMFED, Lively Minds Ghana, UNFPA, NETRIGHT, Domestic Violence Coalition, Legal Aid Commission, the Ark and AG Care-Ghana.

Source: GNA

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