Rape and Domestic Violence:The law criminalizes rape of women but not spousal rape. Sexual assault on a man may be charged as indecent assault. Prison sentences for rape range from five to 25 years, while indecent assault is a misdemeanor subject to a minimum term of imprisonment of six months. Domestic violence is punishable by a fine or a sentence of up to two years in prison. Rape and domestic violence remained serious problems. Authorities did not enforce the law effectively.
The Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service worked closely with the Department of Social Welfare, the Domestic Violence Secretariat, CHRAJ, the Legal Aid Commission, the Ark Foundation, UNICEF, the UN Population Fund, the national chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and several other human rights NGOs to address rape and domestic violence.
Unless specifically called upon by the DOVVSU, police seldom intervened in cases of domestic violence, in part due to a lack of counseling skills and shelter facilities to assist survivors. Few of the cases in which police identified and arrested suspects for rape or domestic abuse reached court or resulted in convictions due to witness unavailability, inadequate training on investigatory techniques, police prosecutor case mismanagement, and, according to the DOVVSU, lack of resources on the part of survivors and their families to pursue cases. Police could refer survivors to government or NGO-operated shelters. In cases deemed less severe, survivors were returned to their homes. Authorities reported officers occasionally had no alternative but to shelter survivors in the officers’ own residences until other arrangements could be made.
There were three government-run shelters for survivors of domestic violence, the Madina Social Welfare Center, the Center for Abused Children and the DOVVSU’s national One-Stop Center collocated with the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service.
DOVVSU continued to teach a course on domestic violence case management for police officers assigned to the unit. It had one clinical psychologist to assist domestic violence survivors. DOVVSU tried to reach the public through various social media accounts. DOVVSU also addressed rape through public education efforts on radio and in communities, participation in efforts to prevent child marriage and gender-based violence, expansion of its online data management system to select police divisional headquarters, and data management training.
Pervasive cultural beliefs regarding gender roles, as well as sociocultural norms and stereotypes, posed additional challenges to combatting domestic violence. A July study at a teaching hospital in Accra indicated that 31 percent of pregnant women experienced domestic violence during pregnancy.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C):Several laws include provisions prohibiting FGM/C. Although rarely performed on adult women, the practice remained a serious problem for girls younger than age 18 in some regions. According to the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, FGM/C was significantly higher in the Upper East Region with a prevalence rate of 27.8 percent, compared with the national rate of 3.8 percent. According to the 2017-2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), women in rural areas were subjected to FGM/C three times more often than women in urban areas (3.6 percent compared with 1.2 percent). Intervention programs were partially successful in reducing the prevalence of FGM/C, particularly in the northern regions.
Other Forms of Gender-based Violence:The constitution prohibits practices that dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person. Media reported several killings and attempted killings of women for ritual purposes. In the Northern, North East, Upper East, and Upper West Regions, families or traditional authorities banished rural women suspected of “witchcraft” to “witch camps.” Most of those accused of witchcraft were older women, often widows. Some women suspected to be witches were killed. The number of persons in the camps dropped significantly since 2020 due to education, support, and reintegration services provided by churches and civil society organizations.
The law criminalizes harmful mourning rites, but such rites continued, and authorities did not prosecute any perpetrators. In the north, especially in the Upper West and Upper East Regions, some widows were required to undergo certain rites to mourn or show devotion for a deceased spouse. The most prevalent widowhood rites included a one-year period of mourning, tying ropes and padlocks around the widow’s waist or neck, forced sitting beside the body of the deceased spouse until burial, solitary confinement, forced starvation, shaving the widow’s head, and smearing clay on the widow’s body. In the Northern and Volta Regions along the border with Togo, “wife inheritance,” the practice of forcing a widow to marry a male relative of her deceased husband, continued.
Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, although authorities prosecuted some sexual harassment cases under assault and other provisions of the criminal code.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government officials.
In January the government added sexual and reproductive health services to the National Health Insurance Scheme for all women, including survivors of sexual violence. This comprised multiple methods of family planning including emergency contraception as part of method mix and as part of the clinical management of rape cases, and long-term contraception free of additional charge.
According to the 2017 UN Trends in Maternal Mortality report, the maternal mortality rate was 308 per 100,000 live births. The Ghana Health Service indicated that neonatal and maternal deaths had increased since the outbreak of COVID-19, primarily due to the inability to provide adequate services in rural areas.
Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. While the government generally made efforts to enforce the law, predominantly male tribal leaders and chiefs are empowered to regulate land access and usage within their tribal areas. Within these areas women were less likely than men to receive access rights to large plots of fertile land. Widows often faced expulsion from their homes by their deceased husband’s relatives, and they often lacked the awareness or means to defend property rights in court.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law protects members of racial or ethnic minorities from violence and discrimination, but it was unclear whether the government enforced the law effectively.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country or outside if either of the child’s parents or one grandparent is a citizen. Children unregistered at birth or without identification documents could be excluded from accessing education, health care, and social security. Although having a birth certificate is required to enroll in school, authorities indicated children would not be denied access to education based on a lack of documentation. According to the MICS, birth registration increased with levels of education and wealth and was more prevalent in urban centers than in rural areas. Authorities adjudicated birth registrations in a nondiscriminatory manner.
Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free, compulsory, and universal basic education for all children from kindergarten through junior high school. The government continued to implement tuition-free enrollment in senior high school.
Girls in the northern regions and rural areas throughout the country were less likely to continue and complete their education due to the weak quality of educational services, inability to pay expenses related to schooling, prioritization of boys’ education over girls’, security problems related to distance between home and school, lack of dormitory facilities, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene facilities.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits sex with a child younger than age 16 with or without consent and sexual abuse of minors. There continued to be reports of male teachers sexually assaulting and harassing both female and male students. Physical abuse and corporal punishment of children were concerns. Local social workers rarely effectively monitored cases of child abuse and neglect.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage:The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Child, early, and forced child marriage, while illegal, remained a problem. According to the MICS, child marriage was highest in the Northern, North East, Upper East, Savannah, and Volta Regions; it was lowest in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Ahafo Regions.
The Child Marriage Unit of the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection continued to lead governmental efforts to combat child marriage. The ministry’s National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage in Ghana (2017-26) prioritized interventions focused on strengthening government capacity to address neglect and abuse of children, girls’ education, adolescent health, and girls’ empowerment through skills development. The National Advisory Committee to End Child Marriage and the National Stakeholders Forum, with participation from key government and civil society participants, provided strategic guidance and supported information sharing and learning on child marriage among partners in the country. The Child Marriage Unit maintained a manual with fact sheets and frequently asked questions and used social media accounts to reach wider audiences.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, although it does not specifically mention sale, grooming, or use of children for commercial exploitation. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Participating in sexual activities with anyone younger than 16 is illegal. The law criminalizes the use of a computer to publish, produce, procure, or possess child pornography.
Infanticide, Including Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law bans infanticide, but several NGOs reported that communities in the Upper East Region killed “spirit children” born with physical disabilities who were suspected of being possessed by evil spirits. Local and traditional government entities cooperated with NGOs to raise public awareness concerning causes of and treatments for disabilities and to rescue children at risk of ritual killing. Authorities enforced governing prohibitions on infanticide.
Displaced Children: The migration of children to urban areas continued due to economic hardship in rural areas. Children often had to support themselves to survive, contributing to both child sexual exploitation and the school dropout rate. Girls living on the streets were among the most vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.
The Jewish community had a few hundred members. There were no reports of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: The law criminalizes the act of “unnatural carnal knowledge,” which is defined as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.” The offense covers only persons engaged in same-sex male relationships and those in heterosexual relationships. There were no reports of adults prosecuted or convicted for consensual same-sex sexual conduct, but police used the law to harass the LGBTQI+ community through detention, extortion, and arbitrary arrest. Police and local leaders also used arrests to “out” members of the LGBTQI+ community to humiliate and alienate them. In Cape Coast, police detained two lesbian community members at a house that had served as a gathering spot for LGBTQI+ community members. The landlord subsequently terminated the lease, specifically citing their opposition to the LGBTQI+ community.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: The LGBTQI+ community reported police violence against LGBTQI+ persons. Civil society groups and activists reported police were resistant to investigate claims of assault or violence against LGBTQI+ persons. Stigma, intimidation, and the perceived negative attitude of some police toward LGBTQI+ persons were factors in preventing survivors from reporting incidents of abuse. Activists noted great difficulty in engaging officials on problems facing the LGBTQI+ community because of social and political sensitivity. LGBTQI+ persons in prison were vulnerable to harassment, as well as sexual, mental, and physical abuse, which authorities generally did not investigate.
Attacks by private citizens on LGBTQI+ persons were common and growing in number. The attacks were increasingly well organized, and in some cases targeted outspoken activists. The attacks were sometimes shared on social media to further humiliate and ostracize LGBTQI+ persons.
Increasing harassment forced many members of the LGBTQI+ community to relocate from their homes or sever familial relationships. Two different LGBTQI+ NGOs, one in the Central Region and the other in the Volta Region, reported they had to relocate their operations because of community and police harassment. Civil society groups reported that several LGBTQI+ community members permanently left the country because of increasing hate speech and harassment.
In August unknown assailants in the Ashanti Region kidnapped, assaulted, and blackmailed a prominent human rights advocate because of their LGBTQI+ advocacy. Police never identified the perpetrators.
Discrimination: The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQI+ persons faced widespread discrimination in education and employment. Evictions, divorce, loss of employment, extortion, denial of financial services, public humiliation, and community ostracism were common. For the second year in a row, there was a notable increase in anti-LGBTQI+ statements by high-ranking political figures and by religious and community leaders, and media coverage of these statements. Most activists believed the introduction of an anti-LGBTQI+ bill in parliament spurred on the statements. Some members of parliament called on LGBTQI+ persons to not seek medical services and for medical providers to refuse to treat them.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Legal gender recognition was not available.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There was an increasing number of reported instances of so-called conversion therapy or practices, including pressuring LGBTQI+ persons to “recant” their identity and reveal the identities of others in the LGBTQI+ community. In July the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association ran a workshop for medical professionals promoting conversion “therapies,” and the chief executive of the country’s Mental Health Authority called homosexuality “a mental disorder.”
Restrictions on Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: LBGTQI+ persons were unable to meet in public or demonstrate, and landlords closed many private spaces community members used for meetings. Media coverage regarding homosexuality and related topics was usually negative. In June community leaders and local politicians illegally removed billboards in Accra and Tamale promoting LGBTQI+ tolerance. Police did not conduct investigations.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and protects the rights of persons with disabilities to have access to health services, information, communications, transportation, public spaces such as schools and public buildings, the judicial system, and other state services, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Few adults with disabilities had employment opportunities in the formal sector.
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 were caned regularly; families reportedly killed some of 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 the law that monitored prayer camps and barred involuntary or forced treatment. International donor funding helped support office space and some operations of the Mental Health Authority.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Chieftaincy disputes, which frequently resulted from the lack of a clear chain of succession, competing claims regarding land and other natural resources, and internal rivalries and feuds, continued to result in deaths, injuries, and destruction of property. According to the West Africa Center for Counter Extremism, chieftaincy disputes and ethnic violence were the largest sources of insecurity and instability in the country. Disputes continued among Fulbe herdsmen as well as between Fulbe herdsmen and farmers that at times led to violence. The government generally sought to tamp down violence and encourage dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes.
The law penalizes discrimination against a person with HIV and AIDS, although the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law contains provisions that protect and promote the rights and freedoms of persons with, as well as those who are suspected of having, HIV and AIDS. These rights include the right to health, education, insurance benefits, employment, privacy, confidentiality, nondisclosure of HIV and AIDS status without consent, and the right to hold a public or political office.
Discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS remained a problem. Fear of stigma, and fear that getting tested would mean immediate labeling as gay, discouraged persons from getting tested for HIV infection. As a result, many of those who tested positive avoided seeking timely care. HIV-positive persons faced discrimination in employment and often were forced to leave their jobs or houses. The government and NGOs subsidized many centers that provided free HIV testing and treatment for citizens, although high patient volume and the physical layout of many clinics often made it difficult for the centers to protect confidentiality. The Ghana AIDS Commission continued to raise concerns regarding how high levels of stigma and discrimination contributed to the spread of HIV in the country.
There were frequent reports of violence against suspected criminals in “mob justice” incidents, and the failure of police to prevent or respond to them. Community members often saw such vigilantism as justified considering the difficulties and constraints facing the judicial and police sectors.
In the Northern, North East, Upper East, and Upper West Regions, families or traditional authorities banished rural persons suspected of “witchcraft” to “witch camps.” A June academic study estimated 16 ritual killings by unknown perpetrators occurred each year, with most of the victims being children or young adults.