The practice of Child, Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM) in the country has reduced “many girls to baby producing machines”, Mr. Joseph Whittal, Deputy Commissioner of Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has said.
He lamented that CEFM continued to perpetuate issues of gender inequality, poverty, maternal and child mortality in the country.
Mr. Whittal made the observation at a workshop in Tamale, on the topic: “The prevalence of child, early and forced marriages in Ghana: Facts and figures”.
The two-day event, organised by CHRAJ and the Commonwealth Secretariat, was attended by traditional leaders, including queen mothers, drawn from the Northern (N/R), Upper East (UER) and Upper West regions (UWR).
It focused on strengthening the capacities of the participants to be able to champion the elimination of CEFM in the three regions in accordance with the Kigali Declaration of 2015, to move from aspiration to action, to prevent and eliminate CEFM in the Commonwealth countries.
According to the 2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, one in four girls are married off before their 18th birthday with the practice recording 39.2 per cent in UER, 36.7 per cent in Western Region, 36.3 per cent in UWR and 27.4 per cent in N/R, partly accounted for the country becoming one of countries with highest prevalence of CEFM in the world.
Mr. Whittal said Ghana risked not attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, if urgent actions were not taken to address the high prevalence of CEFM.
He commended the traditional leaders for attending the workshop, saying it was indicative of their willingness to contribute to eliminating the practice.
Mr. Whittal expressed the need for sections of the Criminal Offences Act on consent to sexual intercourse to be in tandem with the age of marriage set under the Children’s Act, to address the issue of CEFM in the country.
Karen McKenzie, Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat, urged traditional leaders to support efforts aimed eliminating CEFM, emphasising the need to protect the girl-child from CEFM.
A testimony of a victim of CEFM, read by Madam Esther Boateng, Programmes Manager of Action Aid Ghana, caused participants to express their abhorrence to the practice.