Civil societies have expressed concern about the incidence of child marriage in the Western Region, noting that the gaps in the laws of the country encouraged some societies to marry-off girls to men for their selfish interests.
They noted that the 1992 Constitution should have clearly stated the boundaries of what constituted child marriage.
Some men, they said with the tacit approval of families had exploited the fidelity of girls to have sex with them, sometimes maltreating or abandoning and exposing them to dangers of motherhood and sometimes widowhood including loss of opportunities for education.
The participants, therefore, called for a more definite meaning as to what constitute child marriage, to remove the gaps and reduce the ordeals that girls suffer, due to early marriages.
Article 28 (5) of the 1992 Constitution, states that for the purpose of this article, a child means a person below the age of 18 years while the Children Act, 1998 and the Criminal Code of 1960, Section 101(1) states that, defilement is the natural or unnatural carnal knowledge of any child under 16 years of age, adding that whoever commits this offence, whether with or without his/her consent, is liable to a summary conviction of prison term.
But, the contention of the participants was that between 16 and 17, the child could consent to sex even though he/she still under age 18. However, if he /she undergoes sex under duress then “it is rape”.
“This is the gap which needs to be explained else some greedy men will continue to exploit the girls in the name of sex.” they further contended.
The participants which included civil society organisations, faith based organisations, traditional authorities, assemblies and child protection officers, expressed these concerns yesterday at a two-day National Commission for Civic Education(NCCE/UNICEF) capacity workshop for identifiable actors to develop action plans to address child marriage and other child abuse issues.
The project covers 60 communities in 12 districts in six regions of Ghana and aims at promoting the rights and the protection of children, particularly to ensure that the incidents of child marriage in Ghana are eliminated or reduced.
In the Western Region, Sekondi-Takoradi and Tarkwa-Nsuaem areas were selected from the STMA which covers New Takoradi, Kwesimintsim, Assakae, Whindo and Kojokrom where parents, families, traditional authorities, FBOs and community networks are proactive and responsive in dealing with child marriages and child abuse.
The Metropolitan Director for NCCE, Mr. Kwame Lan Tugbenu, told the workshop that the issue of child marriage and other abuses were of great concern to the society in the region, explaining that the commission would use its mandate to reduce the situation.
The Tarkwa area, he said, were one of highest experiencing child marriage, stressing “we all have a role to play.”
From Clement Adzei Boye, Sekondi