The United Nations Population Fund’s honorary ambassador for Ghana, Claudia Lumor, who is also the chief executive officer of Glitz Africa, a high-end celebrity, lifestyle and fashion brand which highlights the life of the contemporary African, has revisited the subject of why so many rape and sexual assault cases in Ghana go unreported. Indeed, she said, the rate of under-reporting is alarming.
Lumor made this disclosure when she participated in a webinar organised by the Justice Foundation, a non-profit-making NGO that champions broad access to justice by citizens. The vent was held in collaboration with her organisation Glitz Africa, and had as its theme “Eradicating a Culture of Rape in Ghana”.
Spate of rape and sexual assault cases
According to the fashion trend-setter and women’s rights advocate, rape cases are going up at a shocking rate in Ghana yet they are still largely under-reported by victims and their families alike.
The silence around sexual abuse is largely the product of a fear that victims will be stigmatised. Many families also do everything in their power to suppress reporting.
“For me what worries me a lot is the age of the victims of sexual assault generally in recent times because it keeps going down and down and it is very scary.
“To the extent that people as young as nine, eight, ten are getting sexually assaulted, I think age has become one of the main things that worries me a lot and also our families,” Lumor said.
“We have a lot of cases where, as soon as the victims report it to their parents, they shut them down. We have instances where they have been tagged as witches. There are a lot of real cases happening in Ghana and we need to talk about it.
“There are still a lot of issues happening in our homes [where] the culture does not allow us to come out. We have had instances where the family says, ‘The men came in and gave us GHC300 and apologised and we took it instead of us going to the police,’” Lumor added.
The director of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, Chief Superintendent Owusua Kyeremeh, advocated that the earlier rape victims report the crime of rape, the better it is for them and for law-enforcement agencies.
“It is easier to trace and collect evidence when the crime has just been committed than to wait,” the DOVVSU boss said.
“In fact, you can report a rape of 30 years, because crime is not time bound. The difficulty is that when you delay in reporting, it becomes difficult to gather evidence to go to court.
“Early reporting is crucial and we encourage every female who has been raped to come to our office, the DOVVSU office, and report the rape as soon as practicable,” Chief Superintendent Kyeremeh said.
Managing consultant of Apex Law
For her part, the managing consultant at Apex Law Consult, Sheila Minkah-Premo, noted that there ought to be a systematic effort on the part of all stakeholders in the fight against crime to encourage rape victims to report their experiences early to the police for the purposes of evidence-gathering before prosecution of suspects.
“The earlier the person goes to the police station to report, the better, because you need evidence. Without the evidence, the person [the rapist] will go scot free,” Mrs Minkah-Premo said.
The Justice Foundation
The Justice Foundation is an apolitical, not-for-profit, non-religious organisation with the sole purpose of increasing access to justice in Ghana.
Founded by Dr Kwaku Agyeman-Budu (a lawyer and law lecturer and the head of law centres at the GIMPA Faculty of Law), the Justice Foundation was incorporated in 2013. It believes that injustice is unacceptable, however it manifests itself, and should be condemned and eradicated by means of a gradual, systematic approach.
As part of its mandate, the Justice Foundation engages in community legal aid outreach programmes, training sessions and workshops, as well as representing certain categories of indigent individuals pro bono.
Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio