Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but not marital rape. Convicted rapists may be punished with prison sentences ranging from five to 25 years. Rape was significantly underreported and remained a serious problem. During the year the Ghana Police Service’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) worked closely with the Department of Social Welfare, the national chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, the Legal Aid Board, and several other human rights NGOs to combat domestic violence. In 2011 DOVVSU received 375 reports of rape and reported 177 arrests and 93 prosecutions, resulting in 13 convictions; 130 cases remained uninvestigated at year’s end.
Although the law prohibits domestic violence, it continued to be a problem. The law stipulates that a person in a domestic relationship who engages in misdemeanor domestic violence is liable on summary conviction to a fine, a term of imprisonment of not more than two years, or both. The court also may order the offender to pay compensation directly to the victim. However, inadequate resources and logistical capacity in DOVVSU and other agencies, as well as only partial implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, hindered the full application of the law during the year. Unless specifically called upon by DOVVSU, police seldom intervened in cases of domestic violence, in part due to a lack of counseling skills, shelter facilities, and other resources to assist victims. In many cases victims were discouraged from reporting abuse and from cooperating with prosecutors because they were aware of long delays in bringing such cases to trial. Victims frequently did not complete their formal complaints because they could not afford the fees that doctors charged to document the abuse in police medical forms. Victims also did not report domestic violence (or rape) because of fear of retaliation. In 2011 authorities prosecuted 246 cases of domestic violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: See section 6, Children.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West regions, where belief in witchcraft remained strong, rural women and men suspected of witchcraft were banished to “witch camps” (villages in the north populated by suspected witches, some of whom were accompanied by their families) by their families or traditional village authorities. (Such camps were distinct from “prayer camps,” to which persons with mental illness were sometimes sent by their families.) Most accused witches were older women, often widows, who were accused by fellow villagers of being the cause of difficulties, such as illness, crop failure, or financial misfortune. Persons suspected of witchcraft were also killed in recent years. NGOs provided food, medical care, and other support to residents of the camps. Government officials and the regional office of the CHRAJ claimed the number of women in witch camps in the Northern Region decreased slightly in recent years.
In December, First Lady Lordina Mahama visited the Gambaga Witch Camp in the Northern Region. On her visit, she donated food and clothing to the elderly women living in the camp. The visit brought some media attention to the camp.
In May an intellectually gifted 17-year-old high school girl was sent to the Gambaga Witch Camp in the Northern Region after being accused of “stealing the intelligence” of other students. The Ministry of Women and Children (MOWAC) and a local NGO intervened and assisted the student with leaving the camp and returning to her studies.
MOWAC monitors witch camps. The CHRAJ has an office in Tamale in the Northern Region, which supports efforts to protect the rights of those accused of being witches and monitors three camps. In 2010, during its most recent survey of the camps, the CHRAJ reported that they contained 175 female and eight male residents; however, media sources reported far higher numbers of men, women, and children in the camps.
Sexual Harassment: There were no laws to specifically protect women from sexual harassment; however, some sexual harassment cases were prosecuted under the existing criminal code. Women’s advocacy groups reported that sexual harassment remained a widespread problem.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely on the number, spacing, and timing of pregnancies. According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent, 98 percent of all women surveyed cited use of at least one birth control method. According to a foreign aid agency, 24 percent of married women of reproductive age used a modern contraceptive method. More than 78 percent of pregnant women had four or more prenatal visits. Approximately 57 percent of women delivered with a skilled attendant. Maternal mortality was estimated in a recent study at 350 per 100,000 live births in health facilities, with the most common causes of death being hemorrhage and infection. More than two-thirds of women reported receiving medical care within two days of delivery. Women were more likely than men to accept HIV testing, particularly since it was offered as a standard component of prenatal care. An estimated 10 percent of the population knew their HIV status; approximately 30 percent of HIV-positive pregnant mothers received antiretroviral medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for all persons to be treated equally under the law; however, women continued to experience discrimination in access to employment. Women in urban centers and those with skills and training encountered little overt bias, but resistance persisted to women entering nontraditional fields. Women, especially in rural areas, remained subject to burdensome labor conditions, performing physically difficult manual labor such as farming, transporting goods, and manual household chores, while often carrying a child on their backs. Women also were subjected to traditional male dominance. Traditional practices and societal norms often denied women their statutory entitlements to inheritance and property, a legally registered marriage with the associated legal rights, and the maintenance and custody of children.
Women’s rights groups were active in educational campaigns and in programs to provide vocational training, legal aid, and other support to women. The government was involved in educational programs, and many officials were advocates of women’s rights.