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Regional News of Saturday, 1 December 2012

Source: GNA

Sexual harassment of school girls degrades womanhood - Law Consultant

Mrs. Sheila Minkah-Premo, Apex Law Consultant, says the incidence of widespread sexual harassment and unsafe abortions of girls in schools causes trauma among victims and degrades womanhood that need to be checked.

She said girls in schools, who were raped by colleagues and teachers, were sometimes punished further by being sacked from school when they get pregnant, whilst their male counterparts stayed on in school or at work.

Mrs. Minkah-Premo made this observation in a document mailed to the Ghana News Agency on “The state of gender based violence response in Ghana” that highlights on violence against women in the public sphere and assesses how far laws and policies in place have helped to curb or address the acts of violence identified.

She said victims of rape in schools got so traumatized that they were not in a position to lodge complaints against perpetrators to ensure they were prosecuted under the Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29) and punished.

Mrs. Minkah-Premo expressed worry that rape victims were rather often blamed and perpetrators freed.

She further observed that when girls were raped and got pregnant, which qualified them for legal abortion in accordance with section 58 of the Criminal Offences Act, they were denied access to needed health care in government hospitals forcing them to resort to quacks, unsafe and illegal means leading to loss of life in many instances.

She bemoaned the situation where healthcare regulators looked on unconcerned as unqualified persons undertook abortions in unauthorized facilities with impunity, saying: “when some go out of their way to fish them out, like Anaas did recently, little is done to punish or take them out of the system.

She pointed out that those medical personnel in government hospitals would usually like to profit from the predicament of such girls and therefore decline services at medical facilities.

Mrs. Minkah-Premo noted that there was the need to protect girls from such violence and steps taken to punish perpetrators.

She, therefore, urged the Ministry of Health to take urgent action on such matters and to put a policy in place to address it.

She proposed that the old legislation covering private hospitals namely Private Hospital and Maternity Homes Ordinance, 1958 (No. 9) to be reviewed and enforced to protect vulnerable girls and women.

Mrs. Minkah-Premo also called on the Ministry of Education to review policies in place on matter of sexual harassment in schools to effectively protect girls from violence and to assist them to lodge complaints with the Police when they report such cases to school authorities, adding: “Their right to education should not be affected by such occurrences.”

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