Participants at an International Justice Mission (IJM) seminar have called for stiffer sanctions on perpetrators of forced labour in the country.
The participants emphasised that it would serve as a deterrent to persons responsible for forced labour and ensure the rights of all individuals are protected.
The one-day seminar held in Accra on Wednesday provided the opportunity for proper deliberation on “the menace of forced labour, its implication on the economy, rule of law and the way forward.”
Forced Labour according to the Labour Act 2003 refers to work or service that is exacted from a person under threat of a penalty, and for which that person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.
Speaking at the seminar, the International Labour Organisations (ILO) Representative in Ghana, Mr Emmanuel Kwame Mensa, said forced labour was prevalent in Ghana due to majority of the economy being informal.
“About 70 to 80 per cent of Ghana’s economy was in the informal sector and it had a way of making things inconsequential,” he explained.
He revealed that, indicators that help create proper understanding of forced labour included “abuse of vulnerability; deception; isolation physical and sexual abuse; withholding of documents; threats; intimidation; withholding of wages; excessive overtime and abusive living and working conditions.”
Mr Mensa added that forced labour was often overlooked due to the sector it occurred in and critical attention must be placed on the induvial being forced to “produce the commodity such as his or her welfare and if their rights were infringed upon during the production.”
“This is dangerous and whether it’s in cocoa farming/processing, gold mining and fishing, it’s important to keep an eye on the people who are being exploited,” he explained.
An attorney at the IJM, Miss Claudia Agyemang, in her remarks, said the 1992 constitution and the Labour Act 2003 clearly highlighted the punishment for forced labour, but they were not stiffer enough as compared to the level of damage that an individual would be forced through.
She added that there were gaps in the laws surrounding forced labour in the country hence the need for broader conversation to address those challenges.
Miss Agyemang urged all Ghanaians to actively play their role in ensuring forced labour was significantly reduced.
Speaking on what the role of the media was in addressing forced labour, a journalist with the Multimedia Group, Raymond Acquah, said there was the need for collaboration between all media houses to actively report on forced labour.
He added that factors such as “interests and readerships” affected the kind of stories that were published, hence the need to stimulate Ghanaian interest for human interest stories.
On the way forward, he said, media houses needed to “setup specialisation desks, allocate adequate resources and apply sensitivity and skill,” when reporting on human interest stories.
He further called for a broader conversation on the matter to address the existing gaps in reporting on human interest stories.
BY JESSEL LARTEY THERSON-COFIE