PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR ENDING CEFM
PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR ENDING CEFM While it is critical to establish the proper legal framework to combat this scourge, enacting legislation alone is not enough. Governments must be committed to enforcing those laws. Even though Ghana, has had a Children’s Act since 1998 and the host of laws enumerated above, enforcement of the provisions contained […]
PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR ENDING CEFM While it is critical to establish the proper legal framework to combat this scourge, enacting legislation alone is not enough. Governments must be committed to enforcing those laws. Even though Ghana, has had a Children’s Act since 1998 and the host of laws enumerated above, enforcement of the provisions contained therein has proved challenging and been disappointing, leading to the increasing incidence of CEFM instead of its decline. The reluctance of the community to expose those who engage in the practice and refusal of the police to investigate or prosecute because they consider it a family issue are the main reasons for the low enforcement rate. Attitudinal change is critical if we are to make any headway towards eradicating this harmful practice and it is only by sustained public education and sensitisation that communities which engage in this practice can stop. Members of Parliament, by virtue of their closeness to their constituents, ought to play a leading role in the advocacy against this practice. Members of Parliament should lead the campaign to end child marriage by raising awareness about the impact of the harmful practice on girl child progress and national development through commemorative statements on the floor of Parliament during celebrations of The Day of the African Child on June 16th, International Children’s Day and the Day of the Girl Child on 11th October. These commemorative days could also be used to highlight the importance of the girl child and stop the practices that are inimical to their growth and development. The oversight role of Parliament mandates MPs to exercise oversight over all Ministries including those in charge of Culture, Women Affairs, Justice and Education. These Ministers should be asked critical parliamentary questions on the status of implementation of legislation protecting girls against early and forced marriage and measures being taken to end this menace. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice can also be summoned to Parliament to provide answers on the number of prosecutions undertaken since the law criminalizing forced marriage was passed as a means of highlighting the lack of law enforcement and compel greater adherence to the law. Parliamentary questions are a powerful tool MPs can utilize to put MDAs on their toes. Publicity of parliamentary questions can help the process of public education for attitudinal change. MPs can also be agents of change in the early marriage campaign in their constituencies by holding public forums to discuss the issue and solicit the assistance of opinion leaders in the community against this practice. Collaboration with Civil Society on this issue is critical. People listen to MPs so we must lead the push for attitudinal change. In communities where the practice is endemic and resistance to its eradication is high, MPs may be reluctant to lead the effort for fear of losing votes and they can use CSOs to educate the populace and raise awareness of its negative effect on society generally. MPs can also push for adequate budgetary provision to be made to the relevant Ministries Departments and Agencies involved in eradicating this practice during the annual budget cycle. Without the requisite funding, not much can be done to implement programmes and policies to end this scourge. With the introduction of Programme Based Budgeting in Ghana, relevant Ministries should be encouraged to propose specific programmes targeted towards ending this practice for inclusion in their budgets. Cross sectoral collaboration is vital for effective eradication of this practice and to avoid duplication and waste. The successful example of the concerted effort to end the ‘Trokosi’ system in parts of Ghana should be replicated in the fight against CEFM. Trokosi, a ritual servitude cultural practice which compels families to enslave their girl children to fetish shrines for life to pay debts or atone for family crimes has been largely eradicated by substitution of sheep and goats for the girls. This was achieved through sustained public education, collaboration with civil society and modification of the cultural practice to remove its offensive elements and retain its essence. Teaching parents in CEFM endemic communities that they will derive more long term benefit from educating their daughters than by marrying them off early will help in the attitudinal change project. Interactions with female role models who will share their experiences can encourage them to educate girls and retain them in school. The Womens’ Caucus in Parliament can assist in this effort. Furthermore, Parliamentary networks such as Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), Pan African Parliament, (PAP), ECOWAS Parliament, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, (CPA) among others can work closely with MPs to bring the early marriage campaign to the attention of World governments, CSOs and International Organizations

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