Traditional rulers and opinion leaders have been tasked to lead the campaign against child marriage by reporting perpetrators to the police for prompt action, the Station Officer at the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit of the Upper West Regional Police Command, Chief Inspector Stella Niabi, has appealed
She lamented that the attitude of shielding offenders and allowing innocent girls to be married off to men older enough to be their fathers and grandfathers was detrimental to the well-being and development of girls.
“We often are tempted to protect people who commit crime because we normally consider them as family but then we forget the subject of the abuse which in this case is a child whose life will forever be in the hands of her abuser; so why don’t we protect the child instead of the adult?”, she said.
The Station Officer stated this at the launch of a campaign against child marriage through effective and timely reporting of incidents to avert occurrences in the region, at Wa by Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG).
She explained that child marriage did not only truncate victims’ education, it also made them less productive because they mostly did not have any skill at that age and could barely contribute anything meaningful to the home.
“This paves way for more abuse against the child because the man is compelled to make provision for every need at home; due to the pressure the man reacts to the least provocation either by withholding support to the home or abuse the girl for asking for support”, she said.
She hinted although efforts were being made to stop child marriage, the menace still occurred in the region and said some of the girls that were rescued were as young as 14 years old and had no idea how to manage a home as a matured woman would.
“How do you give a 14-year-old girl to a man who is almost 60 years and who by law of nature might die and leave the girl behind, probably with children and no source of income; the poverty you would have been trying to escape by giving the girl away would come back staring you in the face with more mouths to feed”, she said.
Chief Inspector Niabi explained that in the incidence of child marriage, close to four other crimes such as defilement, rape and assault could be identified and slapped on the perpetrator.
“A child who is forced to get married against her will might likely resist attempts of sexual relations and if the man forces his way, it amounts to rape and in the case of children below 16, it becomes defilement even if the girl consented to the act”, she elaborated.
FROM LYDIA DARLINGTON FORDJOUR, WA