The Issue of Widowhood Rites which has been described as one of the most dehumanizing, uncivilized and negative cultural practice in the world due to its associated violation of rights of women, is still rife in some parts of the three Northern Regions of Ghana.
Women, who undergo such rites are subjected to mental, physical, and emotional torture, are accused of killing their husbands and most of the times stripped naked and humiliated at the market square.
Even though Article 26 subsection 2 of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that “All Cultural Practices which dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental wellbeing of a person are prohibited”, the issue of Widowhood rites and other negative cultural practices are still matters of great concern especially in the Upper East Region.
Thousands of women have undergone multiples of human rights violations in the name of culture and dehumanizing customary practices. In reversing the trend, a two day seminar has been organized at Bolgatanga by the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme (CISP) in collaboration with the Widows and Orphans Movement to promote culture of human rights and to discuss the causes, effects and potential solution to the issue of widowhood rites.
It is estimated that the Upper East Region alone has over 10,000 widows out of which 7,865 are members of the Widows Movement. According to the Executive Director of the Widows and Orphans Movement, Madam Betty Ayagiba most of the widowhood rites were being spearheaded by women who suppress the widows, torture, strip them naked, shave their hairs and force them to drink concoctions prepared with leaves, hairs and finger nails of their late husbands.
She said, apart from forcing the widows to sleep with the corpse for three or more days, most of the women and their children are also denied food and shelter. “The multiple human rights violations widows and their children go through in this part of the country in the name of culture has lead widows to extreme poverty, migration, social oppression, Many children being denied access to education and health.
A lot of widows and their children are denied of their autonomy and independence”.
Some of the Widows who attended the seminar narrated their ordeals and called for an end to the bad cultural practices in the North to enable the women to contribute to national development.
They disclosed that most of the widows who could not stand the humiliation, beatings and other ill-treatment sometimes commit suicides.
A Legal Aid, Lawyer Amoak Afoko interpreted the legal implication of the Widowhood Rites and other Negative Cultural Practices referred to the people to the Article 21 and Article 26 subsection 2 of the 1992 Constitution which talk about the Fundamental Human Rights and Cultural Rights and Practices respectively.
He therefore admonished traditional authorities and government to adopt effective ways of abolishing all negative cultural practices and customary rites. There were several other speakers who delivered significant speeches including the Programme Coordinator of CISP, Kwasi Gyan Apenteng, the Deputy Upper East Regional Minister, Mrs. Lucy Awuni and Madam Selina Owusu, a women’s advocate.
However, the Hostess of TV Africa’s Daybreak Programme, Esi Arhin delivered a paper on the “Role of the Media in Promoting Cultural Rights”. Esi Arhin who condemned the issue of trokosi, child labour, child trafficking, female genital mutilation and the undignified widowhood rites challenged the Media to ensure that their reports always seek to concientize, sensitize, shape and direct the thinking of the society positively.
Credit: Edmond Gyebi