Madam Maribel Akorkor Okine, Western Regional Director of the Department of Gender has reiterated that child marriage is a crime and punishable by law in Ghana.
She pointed out that Ghana’s criminal code speaks against the act of child betrothing, subject of dowry and child marriages while any person who contravenes the law is liable to summary conviction and to a fine of not exceeding GH¢ 500.00 or to a term of imprisonment.
To this wake, she called on affected individuals to report any such incident to the police, the Minister/Ministry of Gender, District Girl’s Education Unit and Committees on Child Protection among others.
Madam Okine gave the remark at an engagement with Imams and opinion leaders on community-based advocacy sessions on child marriage to serve as a reminder of the dangers of child marriage to the girl child and its relational effect on their communities and national development.
The meeting which was a collaboration between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Western Regional Coordinating Council (WRCC) was to brainstorm with participants for possible practical solutions to child marriage within their communities.
She explained that the meeting was to strengthen their knowledge to enable them to speak out as advocates for children and to draw on the teachings of their faith to promote respect for children and their rights, including abuses that emanate out of child marriage.
Madam Okine stressed the need for strong partnerships among communities and opinion leaders in curbing some harmful practices including child marriage in their homes and communities to end child marriage in Ghana.
She mentioned poverty, insecurity, negligence, truancy, neglect of parent’s responsibility, inadequate implementation of the laws on child marriage, low education, discrimination against the girl child, cultural practices and teenage pregnancy as some of the factors that lead to child marriages in Ghana.
Such marriages, she said, often lead to early divorce, broken homes, hardships on families, health issues that put pressure on health facilities, domestic violence, under-development of talents, lack of education, poverty and other potentials, and even death.
Dr Ernest Obeng, Physician Assistant (medical) at the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital (ENRH) who spoke on the health implication of child marriage lamented that the pelvis of victims may be immature and not ready to accommodate pregnancy thereby leading to stretches which may damage the womb.
He announced that the effects of child marriage can lead to acute urinary infections (AUIs), miscarriages and later pregnancy implications like birth injuries, premature labour or prolonged labour.
He, therefore, called on parents to strive to provide for the needs of their wards, give them equal access to education as their male counterparts, equal access to health, keep an eye on them and build relationships with them to identify with their challenges.