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Protect Vulnerable Women; Their Lives Matter

For a lot of women, physical, sexual and emotional abuse has become a harrowing experience that they always recount with pain. It is clear that their condition cannot be fixed with a day of consolation or weeks of sympathy. Understandably, abuse is abuse, and it can leave lifelong scars.

Just when we thought we have seen enough of physical assault on women and believed that we have been making huge progress on safeguarding the rights of women, news broke of the cold-blooded murder of a 90-year old woman, Akua Denteh, in Kafaba, a town in The Savannah Region of Ghana following accusations of witchcraft. Scenes from the video of the lynching of the elderly woman have since made news, with many calling for justice for the deceased.

Violence of this nature is a reality most women still experience and, beyond it being an act of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), it is also a harmful practice that must be challenged and completely eliminated if the rights of vulnerable women will have to be safeguarded.

Against the background of this incident, an emergency meeting of stakeholders under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) was convened to identify lasting solutions to eliminate these acts of violence against women in the country. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Domestic Violence & Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service and scores of traditional rulers, religious leaders and Civil Society actors were present at the meeting.

 

Speaking at the meeting, the UNFPA Ghana Country Representative, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape condemned in no uncertain terms the gruesome murder of Akua Denteh, while calling for stronger collaboration and concerted efforts to nip the harmful practices of violence against women over witchcraft in the bud. ‘…everyone has come together to condemn the act. At least, those who perpetrated the crime by now should be able to understand that what they did is wrong. We need to challenge and uproot the system that gives rise to these harmful practices so that the death of the victim should not be in vain’, he reiterated.

The Chief Superintendent of DOVVSU, Madam Owusuwaa Kyeremeh, shared a solidarity message on behalf of the Inspector General of the Ghana Police Service, Mr. James Oppong-Boanuh. She echoed the sentiments of the High Command of the Police who have ever since the incident occurred, moved swiftly to arrest the perpetrators. She stated emphatically that it is the willingness of the Police outfit to enforce the law strongly against offenders.

Addressing the gathering as a traditional ruler, the Krotihene of Adjena Akwamu, Nana Ayimadu Brempong III, decried the violence that was meted out to Akua Denteh. He lamented, “It is unacceptable for us to be committing heinous crimes like this under the cover of religion.”

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Cynthia Mamle Morrison, on her part, appreciated the support offered by development partners including UNFPA to her ministry to deal with such unwarranted acts of violence against women. She however, was not willing to say much as she was taken aback by the painfulness of the incident.

The Presidential Advisor on Gender and Development, Ms. Angela Asante, said, the Government is planning to take full action to ensure ‘witch camps’, which are part of the solid entrenchments of these acts of inequality and violence against elderly women are outlawed. There were also remarks from religious leaders, including Rev. Steve Mensah, who appealed to benevolent agencies and groups to offer financial support to the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection.

The meeting of stakeholders ended on a high, with a widespread concurrence by all groups to intensify efforts to protect vulnerable women, including the elderly ones, whose lives also matter.