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PRESS RELEASE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD
“Ending child marriage in Ghana: there’s no time to wait! – Day of the African Child 2015”
As a member of a global partnership of more than 485 civil society organisations, Girls Not Brides Ghana is a partnership of civil society organisations in Ghana who are committed to working together to address child marriage and enable girls to fulfil their potentials in life. Girls Not Brides Ghana is releasing this press statement as part of activities to commemorate the Day of the African Child. Commemorated every year on 16 June, Day of the African Child is an opportunity to reflect on the barriers that children face across Africa, a continent where 40% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday.
Ghana has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, showing that on average, one out of four girls are married before their 18th birthday. The Ghana Demographic Health Survey in 2008 indicated that about 25% of women aged 20-24 were married or were in union before age 18 years. The 2011 MultiIndicator Cluster Survey (MICS) also scores Ghana about 28% for age of marriage before 18 and about 6% for age before 15 years.
At the regional level, previous surveys gave the indication that prevalence is highest in Upper East (50%), followed by Upper West (39%), Northern (36%) and the least prevalence in Greater Accra (11%). In terms of percentages of girls getting married before age 18 years Upper East region leads with 39%, followed by Western region 37% and the least being Greater Accra region with12%. This trend in the statistics emphasizes that child, early and forced marriage is a huge problem in Ghana hence the need to develop strategies that will address it. Child marriage holds girls back, depriving them of their health, education and a chance to prosper, but it also holds back their families, communities and the whole country.
Luckily, things are changing. In just a few years, political commitments to end child marriage have dramatically increased. From the launch of an African Union campaign to end child marriage to the development of national strategies on child marriage in a number of countries, what was once a taboo issue is now firmly on the political agenda. In Ghana here, the commitment shown by the current administration through the leadership of the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), the HounorableNana OyeLithur to develop a national strategy to address child marriage in the country is highly commendable indeed.
This year’s theme for the International Day of the African Child, “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”, is particularly relevant to our efforts. Not only does it bring the nation’s attention on the issue that bring us all together, but it does so by highlighting the importance of the need for civil society, traditional and religious leaders to partner with the Government to ensure the eradication of child marriage in Ghana. Much progress has been made on child marriage, but so much more needs to be done. If we don’t accelerate our efforts, the number of child brides in Africa will double by 2050, and Ghana will continue to bear the unenviable position of being among the top countries with the highest rates of child marriage worldwide.
On such a Day of the African Child, Girls Not Brides Ghana will like to make it loud and clear that it is only by working together that we will end child marriage once and for all in Ghana. It is for this reason that Girls Not Brides Ghana will like to raise the following key issues for the urgent attention of all key stakeholders in the country:
1. The Children’s Act 1998 (Act 650) does mention of ‘child marriage’ but with little deterrent or punitive measures against all who perform, permit or promote child marriage. There is no provision in the children act which provides for nullification of child marriage hence there is the need for the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to initiate a ‘bill on early and forced marriage through Parliament to be passed into law. The bill should also address its effect on health, education, community and the economy.
2. The Criminal Act 1960 which states the age of sexual consent at sixteen years conflicts with the age of marriage (eighteen) in the Children Act 1998. We call on parliament to look into this conflict of laws and streamlined them to ensure that the rights of children are well protected.
It should be noted that time is ticking andif we do nothing to accelerate progress, the number of child brides in Ghana is expected to double by 2025 as compared to the present figures, and all efforts towards improving girl-child education, maternal mortality, gender equality and poverty will all be in vain.
Dr. Ndonwie Peter Ms Linda LaribaAtibila Ms Eunice EfuaAmankwah
National Executive Secretary National Finance and Fundraising Officer Member GNB-Ghana
0203507940 / 0543305470 0509095932 / 0247720704 0242782436
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