Friday, 29 April 2016

Gaafara a tooni- Excuse me your front

Gaafara a tooni- Excuse me your front

At the start of our fourth week in Ghana working for WOSAG, we discussed the issue of consent as a team. During the conversation we realised there are many differences in the understanding of what is meant by “consent” in Ghana and the UK.  As we will be discussing consent during Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) community sensitisations, Patricia and I felt that these differences needed to be looked at in more detail and researched the contrasts between the two cultures.
Group discussion on consent
The Law
We found that in the UK the definition of consent has not been codified in law, but there is a collection of different laws about consent. In Ghana, according to the 1960 Constitution, Act 29, there is no specific definition of consent. Instead, there are lists of scenarios where consent would be considered void (found at section 14).  

Age of Consent
In both Ghana and the UK, the age of consent is 16, which means that any one over 16 of sound mind can consent to sexual activity.  However, sexual activity of people under the age of 16 is treated differently in each jurisdiction. In the UK, teenagers under the age of 16 who are of a similar age and both consent to have sex with one another will not be prosecuted. This rule does not apply in Ghana, where two teenagers aged 15 who had sex could both be prosecuted, even if both consented.

In the UK, children under the age of 13 are not able to consent, and anyone who engaged in sexual activity with a child under the age of 13 would be prosecuted for statutory rape. In Ghana, the age limit is 12 years.

Forced Marriage
Unlike in the UK, where it is illegal to marry under the age of 18 (unless you want to get married at 16 and gain your parent’s permission), parents in Ghana can marry off their children from the age of 16 – regardless of the wishes of that child. Although it is illegal and starting to decline, children as young as 9 in Ghana have been forced into marriage. (Specifically in the Northern Region)

In the UK:
·      15,670 cases are reported each year
·      It is estimated that:
o   11 adults are raped in the UK per hour
o   12,000 men and 85,000 women are raped in the UK each year
o   Only 15% of those experiencing sexual violence actually report it
·      Only 1,070 accused rapists were convicted in 2014

In Ghana, in 2013 290 cases of rape were reported. In Tamale, where WOSAG is based:
·      In 2013 there were 10 reported cases
·      In 2014 there were 18 reported cases
·      In 2015 there were 17 reported cases
·      So far in 2016 there has been 1 reported case
Statistics are not available for number of convictions.

Proving Rape
In Ghana, rape cases are handled differently from the UK. Customs and practices may influence the courts interpretation of the cases and may result in the victims’ and witness’ evidence not being found credible. In both countries, the burden is on the victim to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they did not consent, however in Ghana, a lack of physical evidence, such as scratches and bite marks, are often expected and without them the victim may not be believed.

Some cases never get to court, because the victim cannot afford the cost of the medical report, which is required within 24 hours of the crime in order for the evidence to be taken seriously. This makes it much more difficult for victims of rape in Ghana to get justice in comparison to the UK, where victims of alleged offences are not required to pay to gather evidence to support their cases.

Marital Rape
In both Ghana and the UK, marital rape is illegal. However, public opinion on the issue varies greatly. Whereas in the UK rape within marriage has been thought to be unacceptable for many years, it is not always taken seriously in Ghana. Men pay the families of women a dowry (bride price), which creates the idea that women are the property of their husbands. Women are thought to have consented by making their marriage vows and it is not, therefore, considered necessary to ask again after this. Men can simply demand ‘Gaafara a tooni’ – ‘Excuse me your front’ when they want their wives to perform. These cultural expectations make reporting marital rape harder or socially looked down upon. Women are also reluctant to report for fear that their husbands will be arrested and this will break up the marriage – a major concern in a country where most women are financially dependent on their husbands.

In conclusion the work that WOSAG has to do is important and needs to be done in order to improve the lives of women in Ghana. It will take time and a lot of effort in order to create change. This is why more volunteers are always needed to render their services in order to ensure continuity.

Find out about volunteering with ICS in September here

Writers: Edward Pickard and Patricia Massalay

Editor: Verity Quaite

No comments:

Post a Comment