By Ishmael J. Abudu, JHR-AUCC Chapter
Amnesty International’s annual report shows that although Ghana’s human rights record is improving steadily, there remains work to be done.
Areas of concern highlighted in the report released last month include violence against women and girls, the death penalty, and housing problems including forced evictions.
“Those forced from their homes are the world’s most vulnerable people, often condemned to life in the shadows,” said Lawrence Amesu, executive director of Amnesty International Ghana.
The 300-page report highlights human rights violations in 159 countries around the world including torture, killings, indiscriminate detention, arbitrary arrest, internal displacement and child abuse.
At a launch held at the international press centre in Accra, ministers of state and representatives from the police and prison systems discussed a way forward.
Commenting on the broader issue of human rights around the world, Mr. Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah, an Amnesty International research fellow, said, “governments appear more interested in borders than in human beings and that leads to global inaction on human rights.”
But Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, said the creation of her ministry this year, one of the first initiatives under President John Dramani Mahama’s government, was a clear demonstration of Ghana’s commitment to fight all forms of human rights violations.
Lithur noted that in order for the country to reach a middle income status the local government authority is expanding housing infrastructure in the regional capitals, particularly for civil servants.
Commenting on the issues of forced and child marriages, Lithur commended the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVSU) of the Ghana police service for their intervention so far. She said the ministry plans to launch a public education campaign about the dangers of such marriages across the country.
“Force marriages and child marriages are very prevalent across Ghana for cultural, traditional and social purposes,” she said.
More urgently, she said some child prostitutes were working in brothels in certain parts of the country and that the government was working hard to curtail the situation. “Hold us accountable as a government because this is what we are supposed to do,” she stressed.
Lithur hinted that the ministry plans to use communication tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to raise awareness about human rights violations in Ghana.
She also noted that even though the government had accepted recommendations to abolish the death penalty and there have not been executions in the country for some time, it was still on the statute books. She said the government was committed to its abolishment.
Lithur said her ministry would promote and finance the free legal aid system, turning it into a constitutional body to provide the poor indigenes better access to justice.
She noted that the government was engaged in a livelihood empowerment programme, where poor households were given monthly financial assistance, and that so far 71,000 households across 100 districts were scheduled to benefit.
She was also optimistic that the number of beneficiaries would grow to 150,000 by January 2015.