The elimination of harmful customary practices against women and ensuring gender equality requires more than the creation of “unenforced” laws and the signing of aspirational treaties, Justice Jennifer A. Dodoo, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, has said.
She noted that despite the plethora of legislations promulgated to promote the rights of women as well as the adoption of international conventions, many women, particularly those in the rural areas continued to suffer from inhumane customary practices.
“In the eyes of the law, men and women in Ghana appear to have equal rights. However, a closer look at life in Ghana reveals a harsh reality of endemic state of gender inequality in all facets of life so to speak,” she said.
Justice Dodoo was speaking at a summit organised by the Kings University College on Friday, March 11, 2022, in commemoration of the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD).
It was on the theme: “Break the bias.”
The International Women’s Day is observed annually on March 08 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
Justice Dodoo expressed concern that despite the 1960 Criminal Offences Act (Section 69 A) criminalising Female Genital Mutilation and other inhumane cultural practices that undermined the rights of women, such practices widely persisted.
She said the country must do more beyond the passage of laws and ensure that the existing laws were enforced to safeguard the rights of women, especially those in the rural areas.
“It’s clear that laws alone are insufficient to improve women’s lives. Women in Ghana, especially in the rural areas suffer from sustained harmful customary practice and gender inequality, which requires something more than the creation of unenforced laws and the signing of aspirational treaties,” she emphasised.
Justice Dodoo called for the urgent passage of the Affirmative Bill, saying that the Bill would help address social, economic, and educational imbalance in the country.
She said there must be a conscious effort to break the cultural practices and institutional barriers that inhibit the progress of women in society.
“There should be recognition of the powerful force of women and girls to lead changes in all aspects of life, and there must be deliberations on what prevents women from attaining leadership roles and solutions suggested,” she said.
Professor Cynthia Forson, Deputy Provost, Lancaster University College, said the participation of women in the labour force in Africa had increased significantly in recent years, with many women occupying leadership and influential positions on the continent compared to other parts of the world.
She said although the number of women serving as cabinet ministers had improved from 4 per cent to 20 per cent lately, it could not be established if the women are part of decision making.
She said deep-seated cultural orientation and social norms continued to affect the ability of women to break existing barriers and fight for their constitutional rights.
“It is difficult for women to enter the labour market and when they do, at the structural level, there are stereotypes that impede their progress,” Prof. Forson said.
Prof. Henry Hanson Mensah, Dean of Law Faculty, Kings University College, said many women played significant roles in Ghana’s independence struggle and urged the country to celebrate and recognise the contributions of women to national development.