Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but not spousal rape. Convicted rapists may be punished with prison sentences ranging from five to 25 years. Rape was significantly underreported and remained a serious problem. The GPS’ 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 2012, the latest year for which data is available, DOVVSU received 290 reports of rape and reported 135 arrests and 81 prosecutions, resulting in five convictions; 207 cases remained under investigation 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. Inadequate resources and logistical capacity in DOVVSU and other agencies, however, hindered the full application of the law. 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 on police medical forms. Victims also did not report domestic violence (or rape) because of fear of retaliation. In 2012 DOVVSU prosecuted only 234 cases of rape and domestic assault.
Harmful Traditional Practices: In the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West regions, where adherence to indigenous religious beliefs remained strong, rural women and men suspected of witchcraft were banished by their families or traditional village authorities to “witch camps.” At these villages in the north populated by suspected witches, some of those interned were accompanied by their families. 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, whom fellow villagers accused of being the cause of difficulties, such as illness, crop failure, or financial misfortune. Some persons suspected of witchcraft were also killed. NGOs provided food, medical care, and other support to residents of the camps. The CHRAJ claimed the number of women in witch camps in the Northern Region decreased slightly in recent years.
The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection 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. During its most recent survey of the camps in 2010, the CHRAJ reported that these camps contained 175 female and eight male residents; however, media sources reported far higher numbers of men, women, and children in the camps.
In July the minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, accompanied by staff from the HRAC, visited the Gambaga Witch Camp in the Northern Region. Following the visit, the HRAC issued a statement claiming that the conditions of the camp violate Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for an adequate standard of living for health and wellbeing.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: See section 6, Children.
Sexual Harassment: No laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment; however, some sexual harassment cases were prosecuted under provisions of the existing criminal code. Women’s advocacy groups, including the HRAC, 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 government’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), use of a modern contraceptive method by women (currently married or in a relationship) rose from 17 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2011. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was measured at 4.3 in 2011. No more recent data was available at year’s end. The discrepancy between the relatively low level of contraceptive use and the moderate TFR is likely due to a high abortion rate. Abortion is legal only in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or if the mother’s health is threatened; and many women undergo unsafe abortions. Maternal mortality and morbidity rates have remained high despite advances in most other health areas.
Maternal mortality was declared a national emergency in 2008 when a large-scale maternal health survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service and the Ghana Health Service disclosed, in the first reliable statistic of this sort, 451 maternal deaths per 100 thousand live births. While over 95 percent of women received some prenatal care, the quality of that care was widely perceived to be inadequate. The 2011 MICS found that 67 percent of deliveries occurred with the assistance of a skilled health care provider, a significant increase from 2008. This was likely due to free pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care being included in the interim as benefits under the National Health Insurance Scheme. Postpartum care for mothers lagged, however, as fully 26 percent of women who delivered in a health facility left within the first 12 hours after the birth. In addition, health organizations reported nearly 60 percent of all pregnant women were anemic, and both women and their developing fetuses frequently experienced increased susceptibility to malaria.
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 equal treatment of all persons 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, including the performance of physically difficult manual labor such as farming, transporting goods, and manual household chores, while often carrying a child on their backs. 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 right to resources adequate to maintain and exercise custody of children.
Women’s rights groups, including the Ark Foundation, 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 targeting women and many officials, including Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection Nana Oye Lithur, were advocates of women’s rights.