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General News of Friday, 30 September 2011

Source: myjoyonline

Domestic violence in Ghana is at epidemic levels

The National Coordinator of the Coalition on Domestic Violence in Ghana, Adolf Awuku Bekoe has called for a legislative instrument [LI] to give legal backing to the implementation of the Domestic violence Act 732 of 2007 since according to him, the incidence of domestic violence has now reached an epidemic status.

According to him, even though there have been suggestions that the Act does not need an LI to be fully operational, many Ghanaians, particularly the nouveau rich are often victims of domestic violence but are unable to report their abuse because of the class they find themselves associated with.

He noted that “every law for it to be in operation needs an LI, Domestic Violence Act does not have an LI. I have been told that you don’t necessarily need an LI to really make it operational but the problem is that institutions that are supposed to implement the law, haven’t prepared themselves adequately, or lack the logistics and other things to make the law operational.”

Apart from the affluent class who suffer domestic violence, Mr. Awuku Bekoe said some victims of domestic violence are also unable to report abuses because of their poverty levels.

“For instance, the law says that free medical care for victims, and you have a current situation where doctors say they are not under any obligation to provide free medical care, in fact in terms of even the medical forms that they are supposed to endorse, they say that they are backed by law to charge. So before your case goes to court, if it is criminal, you need the Police to prosecute and the Police will need medical form, you don’t have money to really pay the doctor to fill the forms for you and so you end up not pushing the case” he lamented.

The Principal Planning Officer at the Domestic Violence Secretariat, Catherine Adu Boadi who was on the show, expressed concern about the non-availability of courts to readily try domestic violence cases.

She noted that currently, only Court five at the Circuit Court popularly referred to as Cocoa Affairs Court sits on domestic violence cases and thus implored government to assign other courts to preside exclusively over domestic violence cases as such cases require undivided attention.

She stressed the need for victims to be assured of confidentiality to minimize the trauma they endure from the abuse.

“In the situation where Magistrates do not have copies of the act, it becomes a problem, and you need some kind of institutional protocols, intra and inter protocols to make the operations very smooth and we don’t have [that] yet, so it is still [an] informal system that is working and that really exposes victims to more danger” Mrs. Adu Boadi pointed out.

According to Mrs. Adu Boadi, only 88 out of the about 700 Police stations in the country have Domestic Violence and Victim Support Units attached to them. These units however she noted are in appalling conditions thus making some abused victims feel uncomfortable going there to lodge complaints against their abusers.

Mr. Bekoe who is also a Psychology lecturer at the Methodist University said the current situation is not the best if the country wants to make strides in the fight against domestic abuse.

“There seems to be a this thinking within the Police that every Police station can handle domestic violence cases so why do you have special units called DOVVSU? I think they have gotten it wrong. The DOVVSU I knew some years back is not the DOVVSU that exists now, because I don’t think the police administration is giving the attention and support it deserves in terms of budgetary allocation” he said.

Established about four years ago, the Domestic Violence Secretariat still has administrative and financial challenges. The secretariat relies almost wholly on donor funding and according to its Principal Planning Officer, government has not released money for operational work this year.

The Secretariat however is working on rehabilitating at least three abandoned government structures for use as shelters for Domestic Violence victims and survivors while two plots of land are expected to be released for the establishment of a prototype shelter at Weija for domestic violence victims.

The Christian Council of Ghana is also said to have offered an abandoned bungalow at South Odorkor to DOVVSU to be rehabilitated for use as a shelter for victims of domestic violence.