Physical and emotional violence against children increase in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, Chief Justice (CJ) Kwasi Anin-Yeboah has said.
He said many children remained at risk of forced childhood marriages, while oversight from relevant state institutions remained on a downward trajectory.
Mr Kwasi-Anin-Yeboah said this when he inaugurated a child friendly gender-based violence court at Goaso in the Ahafo Region.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, refurbished the Goaso Circuit Court.
It is fitted with security cameras, playing and reading rooms, and other recreational facilities as well as computers with an installed software Direct Transcription System (DTS) to record court proceedings in real time.
“This is to oil the wheels of justice which hitherto was considered to grind slowly”, the CJ said.
Mr Anin-Yeboah said the changing dynamics, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, called for proactive measures, innovation and reforms from state institutions who were mandated to provide the necessary safeguards for abused children.
“As a result, the Judicial Service has pursued reforms within the existing legislation on child and gender based violence to enhance access to quality justice”, he said.
Such reforms, the CJ added, was an expressed provision to ensure that survivors of sexual violence, especially children, were treated fairly and with dignity and respect.
The aim is to target institutional capacity building, provision of appropriate infrastructure (considering the spatial requirements of children), and standardization of services pertaining to the justice needs of children.
“Most significantly, we have adopted an incremental approach of integrating Information and Communication Technology into our processes to enable efficiency”, he said.
Mr Anin-Yeboah entreated the court’s staff to continue to exhibit a high level of professionalism.
“Please bear in mind that the continuous patronage of the courts for legal redress on gender-based violence cases by the citizenry is largely dependent on how they are treated”.
Miss Hilda Mensah, Child Protection Specialist at the UNICEF said 18 out of the 72 Circuit Courts in the country had been made Child friendly, saying the facilities were therefore significant in making justice service delivery easily accessible to the most vulnerable, particularly, the girl child, without fear.
She therefore called on institutions, family and communities to collectively build the life skills and capacity of adolescent people to enhance their resilient towards sexual harm and exploitation.
Nana Akwasi Bosompra I, the Paramount Chief of Goaso Traditional Area thanked the CJ and UNICEF, and expressed the hope that the court would enable abused children to easily access justice.