|Alhaji Abdul-Razak Saani|
Early child marriage and sexual violence against young girls are very prevalent in the Northern Region of Ghana, with many girls in their early teens constantly dropping out of school before completing junior or senior high school.
These issues, according to various surveys conducted by notable local and international organisations, are as a result of negative cultural practices, religious beliefs, poverty, peer pressure, illiteracy and parental irresponsibility.
But the Northern Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) Alhaji Abdul-Razak Saani, has blamed the issues of early child marriage and sexual violence against girls squarely on Muslims, chiefs and parents.
Contributing to a discussion at a stakeholders meeting organised by Songtaba in Tamale, he said issues of child marriage emanated from within families who always consented to such marriages.
“.....some parents are adversaries...they wouldn’t like it. Some chiefs...we have had situations where some chiefs have married children...chiefs who are even educated...chiefs who have a lot at stake.
“The other adversaries we have to talk about is the misinterpretation of religion...very bad. Unfortunately, it is the Muslims who perpetrate it. The Christians don’t do that. All these crimes, crimes is perpetrated by the Muslims....” Alhaji Saani stated.
The NCCE Director cited Nakpaa, a village in the Nanumba North District where a child could go to school and return home with a child bride. Retrogression in children’s education, he observed, was a factor demotivating many of them from staying in school but rather choose to drop out to marry.
He also chided District Assemblies in the region for reneging on their responsibilities towards the development of citizens especially children, and charged them to consider critical needs of children in their development plans.
There are dangers associated with early child marriage and sexual abuse against girls but largely unknown to victims and perpetrators of such acts. Some of these dangers are sexually transmitted infections including HIV, psychological trauma and miscarriage due to immature womb or rapture of the womb during delivery.
Besides, there is a high risk of such girls suffering fistula due to their inability to endure labour pains and push hard for their babies to come out during.
The Northern Regional Coordinator of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DoVVSU), ASP Emmanuel Holortu, also blamed traditional authorities and politicians for being part of the reasons why early child marriage and sexual abuse were still prevalent in the region.
He proposed that, whereas it was important to address challenges associated with early child marriage and sexual abuse, girls who were still virgins in communities noted for the abuse of girls should also be identified and celebrated as a way of setting standard for other girls to emulate.
|ASP Emmanuel Holortu|
To put an end to the phenomena of early child marriage and sexual abuse against girls, Plan International Ghana in collaboration with Songtaba, is implementing a five (5) year project that aims at addressing their root causes.
Dubbed: “Girls Advocacy Alliance” (GAA), the project which is spanning July 2016 to December 2020 is being rolled out in the Upper West, Northern, Eastern and Greater Accra Regions of Ghana.
In the Northern Region, GAA is being implemented in 40 communities in the Nanumba, Saboba, Gusheigu and Sagnarigu Districts in the Northern Region.
The Executive Director of Songtaba, Ms. Lamnatu Adam, said the project would focus on child marriage, sexual violence and abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children and child sex tourism as well as access to TVET and decent employment opportunities for girls and young women.
She noted that, by the end of the 5years, child marriage, sexual violence and abuse against children as well as commercial sexual exploitation would have reduced.
Girls and young women, Ms. Adam explained, would have increased access to Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and to decent work opportunities.
Meanwhile, other stakeholders at the meeting advocated for strict enforcement of the domestic violence law, children’s law and other criminal codes in order to end the canker of early child marriage and sexual abuse against girls which were spiralling out of controlling.