Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but not marital rape. 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. As of September DOVVSU received 157 reports of rape and reported 82 arrests and 40 prosecutions, resulting in five convictions; 126 cases remained uninvestigated at year’s end. Convicted rapists may be punished with prison sentences ranging from five to 25 years.
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 did not report domestic violence (or rape) also because of fear of retaliation. Statistics were not available on prosecutions of domestic violence cases during the year.
Female Genital Mutilation: 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 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 for suspected witchcraft. (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 also were 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.
For example, in November 2010 in Tema, Greater Accra Region, a group of individuals including an evangelist pastor allegedly set fire to a 72-year-old woman after accusing her of being a witch. The woman died the following day from her injuries. Police arrested six persons; two were charged with murder, and four were released on bail. The accused had yet to go to trial at year’s end.
The Ministry of Women and Children (MOWAC) monitored 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.
NGOs expressed concern about the government’s desire to close witch camps. Accused witches feared they would be killed if camps were dismantled and they were forced to return to their previous homes. According to the CHRAJ, there was some discussion within the MOWAC about closing witch camps and beginning a process of reunification with family and villages as well as an educational campaign about religious tolerance and respect for human rights. The CHRAJ intended to continue to work with camp officials, the MOWAC, and residents about the future of witch camps. A conference held at the end of the year, attended by the MOWAC, the CHRAJ, DOVVSU, NGOs, and other stakeholders focused on a process by which accused witches could reintegrate with their families.
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 freely decide on the number, spacing, and timing of pregnancies. According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent completed, 98 percent of all women surveyed were able to cite having used at least one birth control method. According to a foreign aid agency, 17 percent of married women of reproductive age used a modern contraceptive method. More than 75 percent of pregnant women had four or more prenatal visits. Approximately 60 percent of women delivered with a skilled attendant. Maternal mortality was estimated in a recent study at 451 per 100,000 live births, 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 social 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. Female entrepreneurs found it difficult to start or expand a business due to poor access to credit. Although microcredit programs were available, lack of access to credit remained a serious barrier.
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.