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We must protect our children from harm

Today marks World Children’s Day, a day dedicate to discussing and campaigning on issues of children’s rights. Ghana has a long history of protecting children in society. However, a number of issues have arisen which raises concerns about the way children are treated in the Ghanaian society.

We have heard of cases of child molestation, child labour, child prostitution, and child trafficking, while the debate about caning children in school has also resurfaced. This implies that children are neither safe in private or public space. None of these should make us proud of our record in the area of child protection.

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This is in spite of laws designed to protect children against all forms of abuse and neglect. According to Estelle Matilda Appiah of the  Ministry of Justice, “Section 71, 91 and 92 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) as amended in 1998 … criminalised the abandonment or exposure of a child to danger, abduction of a child and a range of sexual offences that could render a child vulnerable to HIV infection. The 1998 amendment strengthened the law to include procuration, causing or encouraging the seduction or prostitution of a child less than sixteen years and allowing persons under sixteen to be in brothels.”

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In spite of this impressive law, children continue to suffer all kinds of abuse and neglect. Typical of many our laws, these suffer from lack of implementation and enforcement.  The institutions which are mandated to protect children seem to be sleeping on the job. What is more alarming is that in some cases, traditional and local leaders have ignored these laws when children suffer from abuse. This should not be allowed to happen.

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Public Agenda calls on the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHARJ), the Gender Ministry, Ministry of Education, children’s rights organisations, and UNICEF to constitute a multi -stakeholder group to discuss ways of enforcing the laws against child abuse, and to call for serious punitive measures against perpetrators of child abuse.

This is one area that requires urgent action

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