Source: Ansa Africa
Some women's rights groups have expressed their disappointment at the recent national constitutional review conference organized by the Constitution Review Commission in Accra recently.
The women were hopeful that the exercise would correct the gaps, but they were stunned that all the 25 areas which formed the subject matter for the conference did not feature any gender concerns. They claimed they were at the conference in their numbers to support the cause of women but to their amazement none of the concerns raised by them was mentioned.
Speaking at an Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) forum, a Gender Advocate, Mrs. Chris Dadzie, observed that a cursory examination of the 1992 Constitution exhibits a number of gaps in provision for gender equality and related rights of women. The forum was under the theme 'Gender and the 1992 Constitution.'
She stated the lack of, or insufficient, gender sensitivity was further manifested after amendments to the Constitution were effected in 1996 that did not see the necessity of dealing with the gaps in provisions on gender or women's rights.
Eventually, she said the current constitutional review process has also revealed a similar low level of appreciation of the need to pay particular attention to concerns of gender as important ingredients of sustainable development.
"I'm not saying it's the fault of the Commission, but does it mean that Ghanaians do not prioritize gender as important? My position is that there are just too many gaps in the Ghanaian Constitution to be amended."
She continued, "There aren't enough structures so we need more than the constitutional input. The situation is so grave and injurious to the whole grisp of national development such that we need stronger provisions in the constitution." This unfortunate situation is in spite of the fact that several groups concerned with measures to engage with and affect the review.
Mrs. Dadzie, who is also a member of IEA Constitution Review Coalition, described the 1992 Constitution as discriminatory and limiting women in all spheres of development.
She indicated that although Ghana's Constitution has a whole chapter on human rights, article 27 which deals with gender rights is not specific on the rights of women. Likewise article 28 which focuses on children is not specific on the rights of children and leaves the clauses open. "Societal roles have to be turned into rights," she said.
Mrs. Dadzie noted that as the Constitution is being reviewed it is necessary that issues pertaining to women and children are included and stated clearly, so that the final amendment document will include their concerns.
She deduced that Ghana is seen to be first in appending her signature to every international convention and agreements but when it comes to implementation, she is found wanting.
Again, she said women issues are branded domestic/private and therefore the government cannot intervene in private matters. "Gender disparity affects both sexes invariably. Considering the number of women and gender violent issues that cost the country man hours of work, Ghana should deal with them as national issues and not private ones".
She noted that when it comes to voting the state will do all that it takes to find money to fund it but when it come women, girls and children concerns there is feet dragging. "Why should it be so?" she asked.
Apparently, she said, development plans are done without appreciation of women's needs. "We prioritize upwards what we believe. Issues of women and girls rights should be adequately captured in the constitution."
Sadly, the gender advocate noted the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC) has not been able to champion the course of women and children due to lack of resources and that it could work properly if it had cabinet position.
Comparing Ghana's constitution to countries such as Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda, she said their constitutions state clearly issues concerning women but that of Ghana mentions persons. She emphasized that specificity matters in the constitution.
She concluded there is validity for women's active engagement in all matters affecting them and particularly in taking a position on their country's constitutional framework and process and outcomes of reforms.
Also, she said Constitutional text should use inclusive and non-sexist language in order to make female persons both visible and relevant. Male designations should not be used to subsume references to female persons.
Some participants at the forum corroborated the need for clear statement in constitution on gender concerns.
However, Dr. Raymond Atuguba, Executive Secretary to the Commission, in an interview said he cannot explain why petitions sent by women's groups were not factored in the major topics discussed during the conference. He assured that since the Commission would later review concerns and evaluate the conference, he was hopeful that their concerns would be captured.
DSP Elizabeth Dasaa, the National coordinator of Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, recounted her experience at the division and said women's issues are very serious, such that the state needs to enact specific laws.
Dr. Rose Mensah Kutin, Executive Director of Abantu for Development, added that it is through public policy that something can be done about gender issues. She was also not happy that despite their involvement during the review commission's consultation and the climax of the conference, their concerns were not captured.
"We need not relent in our efforts but to continue to emphasize on the issues and make our voices louder to be heard."