Regional News of Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

Spousal murders in Ghana worrying - Minister

A recent report of spousal murders in the news reminds us of the deadly form that violence against women can take if left unchecked.

A report dated May 28, 2013, in the Daily Graphic, headlined “60-year-old driver kills wife”, told the story of a man from La who allegedly carried out a fatal beating on his 58-year-old wife.

The victim’s daughter said her mother had been complaining for some time of escalating domestic violence in the home.

In an incident the same week, police in the Bosomtwe District in the Ashanti Region arrested a 42-year-old man after he allegedly murdered his wife during the night in the presence of their four children.

Another recent story from the Daily Graphic, headlined “60-year-old farmer arrested for killing wife”, was told of a man who allegedly murdered his wife of 15 years with a machete in Agona Nyakrom in the Central Region.

And on June 18, 2013, a woman was apprehended in Accra for allegedly contracting three men to murder her 50-year-old husband.

This follows a number of other stories carried by our newspapers between March and May 2013 with equally distressing headlines: “Man sets lover ablaze, ends up burning to death”; “Farmer chops off wife’s arms”; “Man beheads girlfriend”.

The issue of spousal murder, as an extreme manifestation of domestic violence, cannot be ignored, and requires a firm response.

Ministry’s commitment

In rising to this challenge, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is committed to expanding provision of facilities and support for survivors of domestic violence and including survivors of domestic violence in the existing cash transfer system.

It is also essential that abuses against women and girls be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, as was emphasised by President John Dramani Mahama in his State of the Nation Address on February 21, 2013.

Prevention activities

To address domestic violence, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection intends to follow the principles of prevention, protection, Prevention activities will include, scaling up sensitisation to include more involvement from men, empowering girls to protect themselves from domestic violence and utilising research data to target the causes of domestic violence.

To better protect survivors of domestic violence, there will be greater technical support and forensic capacity to improve investigations and increase the rate of convictions.

With regards to safety and provision of services, the Ministry will expand support to survivors of domestic violence and adopt a policy framework for domestic violence for the health sector.

In addition to these activities, the Ministry will conduct sustained public education, advocacy and sensitisation on the need to reform outmoded socio-cultural practices, beliefs and perceptions that promote and normalise violence against women and girls.

The current statistics on spousal murders demand action, and we must as a nation prevent future spousal murders from occurring.

In order to do so, we should widen our goal, and aim to eliminate and prevent any form of violence against women and girls in Ghana. Ghanaians therefore need to join the government in taking every possible step to ensure our women and girls are afforded their rights, given equal opportunities and protected from violence and discrimination.

Statistics from DOVVSU

The findings of this study are affirmed by contemporary statistics kept by the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, which in 2012 recorded 15,271 cases of various forms of violence against women nationwide, an increase from 12,906 cases in 2011.

The 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey also found that almost 35 per cent of women had experienced some form of physical, sexual or emotional violence in the year preceding the survey.

Under the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, domestic violence is punishable by up to two years imprisonment, a fine of GH¢6,000 or both.

The ability of authorities to target domestic violence, however, is hampered by the acceptance of domestic violence within some communities.

According to the Ghana Statistical Service 2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 23 per cent of women believe a husband is justified in beating his wife/partner in various circumstances.

As a result, many women who are subject to domestic violence are unwilling to report the crime or access support services.

A researcher on violence against women in Ghana, Elizabeth Ardayfio-Schandorf, has written that “anything and everything can be used to justify domestic violence against women… [and] violence against women is not seen as a crime.”

In a study she led in 1997, it showed that 25 per cent of male respondents indicated that they beat their partners and despite some recognition that it was “wrong behaviour” they explained that it was necessary to “correct their wives.” Distressingly, these attitudes persist in younger generations.

Report by HRAC

Sadly, these are not isolated incidents. A report released by the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) in November 2012, recorded 53 cases of spousal murders from January 2010 to July 2012.

This consisted of 42 cases of wife-killings, five cases of husband-killings and six cases of rival murders.

The report found that the majority of reported spousal murders during the period took place in the Greater Accra and Western Region, with the most common methods of murder being stabbing, butchering, slashing, shooting, beating and strangulation.

In six of the cases, the perpetrators did not only kill their spouse but also attempted to murder other individuals, including three cases where children or grandchildren were targeted.

The natural question to ask when considering the issue of spousal murder is “why”? In examining this question, the HRAC report found that the spousal murders were motivated by a variety of factors, including domestic violence or abuse, money, presumed infidelity, separation or ongoing arguments.

Other motives included women refusing to have sex and one case where the perpetrator wanted to “teach his wife a lesson”.

According to academics and researchers in the area, these motivating factors often stem from a sense of possessiveness or ownership which the male feels over the female victim.

It is generally accepted that spousal murder is a severe escalation of other forms of domestic violence. It is therefore no surprise that, figures regarding non-lethal violence against women in Ghana are equally alarming.

Statistics released by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre in 1998 indicated that one in three women in Ghana have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.