The Country Representative of UNICEF, Madam Hilda Mensah has stated that Ghana still has the highest rates of mistreatment of children even though the country has made reforms on laws affecting children.
She said Ghana has taken leadership and commitment towards children by being the first to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
She said these at a National Consultative and validation workshop on the proposed Draft Amendment Bills to the Children’s Act, Juvenile Act and related Laws in Ho.
She said the Ministry’s decision to embark on the review and amendment of the Children Act, Juvenile Justice Act and related laws would ensure that laws relating to the children, reflect the aspirations of the policy.
That, she said, was a positive step aimed at deepening protection for all children because, for many children in Ghana, the reality is still one of hardships, exploitation and abuse.
She mentioned the physical abuse of children being one of the highest in the world. She added that about 20 per cent of children still engage in hazardous and exploitative forms of labour.
“Trafficking of children continues although no one can tell the exact number due to the illegal nature of its operation. More than 30,000 children mostly girls enter into marriage annually as a consequence drop out of school” …she stressed.
According to her, children were viewed and treated differently, as human beings with a distinct set of rights, and not as passive objects of care and charity.
Madam Mensah stressed that “All children need protection. This protection begins with laws that recognize their vulnerability and makes provisions that shield them absolutely from violence, abuse and injustices”.
“Their protection requires institutions that are strong and treat children and adolescent differently from adults” she noted.
Madam Mensah noted that a strong nexus between lack of care and crime should be appreciated adding that children who are victims of violence, abuse and exploitation are far more likely to commit crimes than those children who are supported, loved and cared for.
In an address, the Acting Director for Social Welfare, Mr. Daniel Boamah, said the aim proposed amendments made in reference to the Juvenile Justice Act addresses the issues related with children who are in conflict between the laws.
He said the Act introduces significant changes in the law however those significant changes are to raise the age of a child who is in conflict with the law from 17 to 18 years.
This, he said, was to ensure a juvenile who is arrested is being taken through a specialised course.
According to him, there is the need for an overhaul of the law to address gaps in order to ensure that the rights of the Juvenile are well protected.
By Agnes Melissa Yovo | Volta Region, HO