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Last update: 1 July 2022 h. 10:44
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Child molestation on the increase

The media are replete with ridiculous, improbable and frightening stories about sex scandals and child molestations. But day in and day out, these stories stand out clearly to remind Ghanaians of the dangers sex maniacs are posing to the society.
Sam Sarpong

Two years ago, a male teacher at a prestigious girls secondary school absconded after he was found to have sexually abused as many as 17 students. The students reportedly told the school administration about the indecent assaults, but they were rebuffed and no action was taken against the culprit. The headmistress was, however, forced to resign when the issue came to the public domain. A year ago, another teacher dragged the name of the teaching profession into the mud by raping a female student.

A more recent case is that of a comedian who allegedly used his celebrity status to lure a young girl into his hotel room where he forcibly had sex with her. Bishop Okala, 46, reportedly defiled the girl in a town where he had gone to perform a concert. Okala, who is currently on trial, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecent assault and defilement.

In August, this year, A 39-year old unemployed was jailed for 20 years when he was found guilty of incest. Julius Bawa pleaded guilty to the charge and was convicted on his own plea. He subjected his 13-year-old daughter to a prolonged sexual ordeal in spite of the girl s protestations. The girl later summoned courage and reported him to the police.

A few of the stories will further provide a graphic picture of the situation in Ghana. (a) A 63-year-old man in police grips for defiling girl, 8. (b) A pastor of the Gethsemane Church at the Buduburam Refugee Camp is in the grips of the law for allegedly defiling a 9-year-old girl. (c) A 58-year-old headteacher defiles 2 schoolgirls, aged six and eight. (d) A policeman rapes a 16-year-old girl sent to the Police Station for protection.

The list seems to be endless. They include so-called men of God, policemen, politicians, teachers and chiefs.

The impact of molestation, however, varies widely. In some cases, the perpetrators of the dastardly acts are made to marry the victims. Although this is supposedly seen as a punishment for the men, such cases end up with the young girls suffering immeasurably as a result.

A clear example is the case of a 12-year-old-girl who was defiled by a 48-year-old teacher in a village. The girl became pregnant as a result. Meanwhile, an arbitration panel that was set up by the village elders to look into the case, among others, ruled that Billy Awitor, the culprit, should marry the girl. The panel s explanation was that since the teacher capitalised on the innocence of the little girl, he should bear the brunt of his misdeed by marrying her and also pay a huge cost.

This is a classic case where although there is an intention to punish a culprit, it rather ends up creating further problems for the young girl who would have to put up with her molester for the rest of her life.

Although, there seem to be no simple answers as to why some adults are sexually attracted to kids, so young as to be their grandchildren, there is a plausible theory to contend with.

Men may be sexually attracted to young girls simply because our society supports that preference says Kofi Aboagye, a psychologist. Betrothing young girls to chiefs and wealthy septuagenarians is common place in our society, he argues. In reality this situation has changed considerably over the years.

In 2001, the Ghana National Commission on Children (GNCC) effected the prosecution of a chief who coerced a 14-year-old girl into marriage after he impregnated her.

The GNCC reiterated that the marriage violated the Children s Act, which sets the marriageable age at 18, and the Criminal Code, which prohibits sex with a child under 16 years of age. Under the criminal code, forcing a person to marry against his or her will is an offence which is punishable by three years imprisonment.

More recently, the Women s and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) of the police arrested a couple for forcing their 15 year-old daughter to marry a 60 year-old rich man.

It was in recognition of the growing trend in domestic violence and child abuse that the government established WAJU in 1998 as a specialist wing to look into such matters. The unit has since won the confidence of women and children since its inception.

Until recently, there were few support groups to assist kids who suffer from post-traumatic experiences arising from molestations. With the influx of NGOs working in the interest of women and children, of late, and the fight against the menace, Ghana seems to be performing extremely well in the battle against the trend at least judging by the prosecutions.

Within the limits of its resources, the government has committed to protecting the rights and welfare of children.

Incidentally, child trafficking continues to be a major problem here. No laws specifically address this. Traffickers are sometimes prosecuted under laws against slavery, prostitution, and under-age labour.

The government acknowledges that trafficking is a problem. Children between the ages of seven and 17 are often trafficked to and from neighbouring countries to work as farm workers or household help. In some cases, the girls are forced to work as prostitutes.

Most of the recruitment of children is done with the consent of the parents, who sometimes are given money and assurances that their children would be better of where they are. International traffickers promise the girls jobs, however, once they reach their destination, they are oftentimes forced into prostitution.

In order to curb the practice, the GNCC is now collaborating with the security agencies and the District Assemblies to form community-based task forces and vigilante groups at markets, border posts and lorry parks to track down on the activities of child traffickers, says William Fiati, a Regional Co-ordinator of the GNCC.

In 1998, the Criminal Code was amended to provide additional protection for women and children. The legislation added new definitions of sexual offences and strengthened punishments for others.

The new provisions ban the practice of customary servitude -known as Trokosi where young girls are given out to traditional priests to atone for crimes committed by their relatives. The law also protects women accused of witchcraft, double the mandatory sentence for rape, raise the age of criminal responsibility from 7 years to 12, criminalise indecent assault and forced marriages, and raise punishments for defilement, incest, and prostitution involving children.

Indeed, the government plans to be steadfast in dealing with the child molestation menace but firstly it needs to know what underpins this development, which are mostly economic and the insatiable lust by men.

Poverty has made many parents to give their daughters out to rich older men and to traffickers. Whilst it can be argued that poverty could be tackled somehow, one cannot however, vouch whether the use of punitive measures including imprisonment, could fend off the insatiable lust of men.

But like a famous inscription on a Ghanaian mammy truck, we live to see.

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