ACCRA, Ghana — Located in West Africa, the country of Ghana experiences an array of difficulties that have resulted in a compromise of basic human rights. As the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to rid itself of European colonialism, Ghana has made tremendous progress since its days of British control. However, barriers such as government corruption, police brutality, child trafficking, prison conditions and discrimination remain as major setbacks for human rights in Ghana.
Prison crowding causes concern, with 94 reported deaths in custody due to lack of hygiene, malaria or HIV. According to a report by the U.S. Department of State, a penitentiary in Ghana housed 14,061 prisoners, three times its capacity. Furthermore, prison guards are notorious for their brutal treatment of the detainees. It is common for them to employ violent methods of punishment such as caning and rape.
Corruption as a violation of human rights in Ghana is apparent as the rate of unlawful arrests and detentions amounts to 9 percent. Police officers often give in to the bribes of rich businessmen and politicians to arrest their adversaries.
Although the Constitution of Ghana protects the freedom of speech and of the press, it is not properly enforced due to the conflicting interests of the elite. Journalists are harassed and assaulted throughout the country for exposing facts that the government thinks are best concealed, further infringing upon basic human rights in Ghana.
Discrimination according to gender is also a pressing issue, especially in the Northeast and Northwest regions of the country. Despite the laws in effect that condemn domestic abuse, a lack of resources prevents implementation. Victims feel unable to report their attacks because of a lack of faith in the legal system. In 2013, only 16 out of 255 rape and domestic cases brought to court got convictions.
Women in the northern regions also fall victim to Female Genital Mutation (FGM). About 4.2 percent of the female population have undergone these procedures, but local NGOs fight back by educating women and pushing them to make independent decisions about their bodies.
Despite the troubling conditions, local NGOs give confidence to the local women and implement measures to lessen the social disparity. One such project introduced them to modern contraceptives. With the usage of these devices increasing from 17 percent to 22 percent, their work is succeeding.
With children from the age of five to fourteen making up 24.7 percent of the workforce, child labor and trafficking rank as the primary intrusions of human rights in Ghana. Work days for these children range from 10 to 12 hours, keeping the majority of them out of school. Not only do these children suffer from malnutrition and subpar living conditions, they are also forced to do work that is injurious to their health.
The fishing industry employs the majority of child labor and entrusts the children with the most harmful tasks. The younger workers dive into the lakes to undo the knots in the nets because of their small size. These lakes can contain waterborne pathogens which have the potential to lead to extreme illness or death.
Despite the present issues with human rights in Ghana, a silver lining is visible through the work that regional NGOs do to change laws and educate the public about autonomy, child labor and the importance of schooling. Many families recognize that sending their children off to work is harmful and that they should be in school. These families then go on to educate others, thus creating a positive ripple effect.
– Tanvi Wattal