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General News of Thursday, 14 January 1999

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Call for stringent laws to protect women

Tamale, (Northern Region) 14 Jan. '99,

The Northern regional minister, Mr Joshua Alabi, today called for more stringent laws to prohibit any form of discrimination and violence against women. In a speech read for him to open a day's seminar on violence against women at Tamale, Mr Alabi said the enforcement of such laws, coupled with affirmative action, would discourage acts of violence against women. The seminar, organised by the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD), brought together 90 participants from religious organisations and women's groups such as the Wives Association of the Security Services, Federation of Business and Professional Women, market women, GNAT Ladies Society and GES Ladies. It was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme. Topics discussed included female genital mutilation, the existence of a witches' home and strategies to minimise or stop violence against women. Mr Alabi suggested that district assemblies should allocate part of the common fund to support the empowerment of women. He said it is imperative that something positive must be done to eradicate discrimination and violence against women, adding that society is taking "undue advantage" of women's attributes of gentility and mildness to suppress them. Hajia Alima Mahama, a member of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), regretted that various other forms of violence are not covered in the Criminal Code. She said violence against women takes the form of physical, sexual psychological abuse, adding that a lot of misconceptions are placed on religion or culture as a basis for such violence. "Violence against women is deeply rooted in the gender power relationship and has assumed a complexity in nature in various societies," she observed. Hajia Mahama called on women to organise back-up groups to support victims of violence and seek their constitutional and legal rights to remedy the wrongs of society.