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Bongo chiefs pledge to reform outmoded socio-cultural practices

2009-04-29 21:33:23
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THE PARAMOUNT Chief of the Bongo Traditional Area, Naba Baba Salifu Ateemyarom Atamale, and his sub-chiefs from Vea, Gowrie, and Nyaraga, have pledged their unflinching commitment to reform many of the socio-cultural practices that have denied women access to justice.

The chiefs said they were aware that Ghana was a signatory to many of the International and Regional Conventions and protocols on rights in general, the rights of women in particular, the Domestic Violence Act and other statutory laws of Ghana, all in fulfillment of the 1992 Constitution.

They were also reflecting over Act 272 (b) and (c) which, among other things, allowed chiefs to undertake an evaluation of the traditional customs and usages, with a view to eliminating those customs and usages that are outmoded and socially harmful.

The chiefs made the pledge, contained in a communiqué, after a one-day sensitisation forum for them, their elders and women, which was organised by the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).

Among other things, the chiefs pledged to assist women to enjoy their full fundamental human rights in the communities, reform many of the socio-cultural practices in such communities, such as early marriage, widowhood rites, inheritance, and property rights of women.

They would also support women who reported abuses and any violation of their rights to seek redress at any law enforcement agency; that rape, defilement and other high crimes would not be handled by their local courts, but referred to the appropriate institutions for redress, and also take measures to ensure that women can access justice at the local level, while encouraging men to see women as equal partners in development.

However, the chiefs could not take a definite decision on the issue of reducing the present number of four cows as dowry, as Boenaba. The Chief of Bongo, Naba Baba Salifu Ateemyarom Atamale, asked for time to discuss that in camera with his sub-chiefs and elders, before coming out with their response.

Other chiefs who endorsed the communiqué were Naba Peter Apiniyela Anandgo of Gowrie, Naba Thomas Azunbire of Vea, and Naba Bosongo Dogpoya of Nyaraga.

Mr. David Atinga, Upper East Regional Coordinator of FIDA Ghana, mentioned poverty, lack of support from family members, the perception that a woman has no permanent home, victimisation, greed and lack of knowledge on the rights of women, as some of the many problems affecting women’s access to justice in the region.

He said FIDA’s experience in Northern Ghana had shown that traditionally, there were three levels of justice delivery that a woman could access in any community when she was in trouble, or her rights violated.

They were named as family or household level, clan level and chief’s palace level. At each of these three levels, the procedure used in administering justice and the empanelling of the decision makers, made it difficult for women to access justice, and even when they accessed justice, it did not appear to be fair.

Mr. Atinga said the structure of the society was another thing that prevented women from accessing justice when abused at the local level. This was because the North was a male-dominated polygamous society, with a matrilineal system of inheritance that was entrenched and resistant to change. Males consequently, have more value and power than females.

The Regional Coordinator appealed to the Boenaba and his subjects, to consider adding some old, wise and knowledgeable women to his adjudicating panel, especially when women’s interests were concerned.

Members of the Community Aid Groups and Sister Watch Groups, formed by FIDA to assist in seeking justice for women at the community levels, testified about the good work of FIDA in the region over the past few years.

They called for total commitment and support from the chiefs, elders and opinion leaders, to champion the crusade for women’s access to justice.


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