Ghana is a constitutional democracy with a strong presidency and a unicameral 275-seat parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections conducted in 2016 were peaceful, and domestic and international observers assessed them to be transparent, inclusive, and credible.
The police, under the Ministry of the Interior, are responsible for maintaining law and order, but the military continued to participate in law enforcement activities in a support role, such as by protecting critical infrastructure. A separate entity, the Bureau of National Investigations, handles cases considered critical to state security and answers directly to the Ministry of National Security. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.
Significant human rights issues included: arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; violence against journalists including assaults, death threats and one journalist shot and killed; censorship of a free press including arrests and the closure of two radio stations for ostensible licensing irregularities; corruption in all branches of government; crimes of violence against women and girls, to which government negligence significantly contributed; infanticide of children with disabilities; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although rarely enforced; and forced child labor.
The government took some steps to address corruption and abuse by officials, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. This included the passage and signing into law in May of the Right to Information Bill that seeks to improve governmental accountability and transparency. Impunity remained a problem, however.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Persons with Disabilities
The law explicitly prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and protects the rights of persons with disabilities’ access to health services, information, communications, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law provides that persons with disabilities have access to public spaces with “appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a person with disability,” but inaccessibility to schools and public buildings continued to be a problem. Some children with disabilities attended specialized schools that focused on their needs, in particular schools for the deaf. As of November the government hired 80 persons with disabilities through the Nation Builders Corps, an initiative to address graduate unemployment. Overall, however, few adults with disabilities had employment opportunities in the formal sector.
In January the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations reported that women with disabilities faced multifaceted discrimination in areas of reproductive health care, and because of the mistreatment, they were unwilling in most cases to visit a health facility for medical care.
Persons with both mental and physical disabilities, including children, were frequently subjected to abuse and intolerance. Authorities did not regularly investigate and punish violence and abuses against persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities who lived at home were sometimes tied to trees or under market stalls and caned regularly; families reportedly killed some of them.
In February laborers rescued a two-and-half-year-old boy with cerebral palsy buried alive in an uncompleted building in a suburb of Cape Coast in the Central Region. Local residents believed his parents may have buried him because of his disability.
The Ghana Education Service, through its Special Education Unit, supported education for children who are deaf or hard of hearing or have vision disabilities through 14 national schools for deaf and blind students, in addition to one private school for them.
Thousands of persons with mental disabilities, including children as young as seven, were sent to spiritual healing centers known as “prayer camps,” where mental disability was often considered a “demonic affliction.” Some residents were chained for weeks in these environments, denied food for days, and physically assaulted. Officials took few steps to implement a 2012 law that provides for monitoring of prayer camps and bars involuntary or forced treatment. International donor funding helped support office space and some operations of the Mental Health Authority. The Ministry of Health discontinued data collection on persons with disabilities in 2011. Human Rights Watch reported in October 2018 that it found more than 140 persons with real or perceived mental health disabilities detained in unsanitary, congested conditions at a prayer camp. In December 2018 the Mental Health Authority released guidelines for traditional and faith-based healers as part of efforts to ensure that practitioners respect the rights of patients with mental disabilities.
In February at a political event the president said that “only those who are blind or deaf” would not be aware of the work done by the government. Following criticism from the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, he apologized “for any unintended slight from the ‘political metaphor.’” The president of the Ghana Blind Union said nevertheless such comments impeded efforts to end stigmatization of persons with disabilities.