The International Federation of Women Lawyers -Ghana, (FIDA-Ghana), on Monday appealed to the National House of Chiefs to initiate a national exercise leading to the elimination of all outmoded traditional customs.
FIDA-Ghana, particularly, called on Togbe Afede XIV, the President of the National House of Chiefs to lead the process in evaluating traditional customs and usages to eliminate customs that amounts to torture, and were socially harmful resulting in the threat to the liberty and security of women and girls.
A statement signed by Ms Afua Adotey, FIDA-Ghana President and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra explained that the role of the National House of Chiefs in eliminating harmful traditional practices was rooted in Article 272 (c) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
The Article provides that the National House of Chiefs shall, “undertake an evaluation of traditional customs and usages with a view to eliminating those customs and usages that are outmoded and socially harmful”.
The statement said both the Constitution and international law gives the National House of Chiefs “carte blanche to overturn cruel and inhumane traditions and ultimately to modify customs that are a clear breach of the realization of the human rights of women and girls.
“This is the only way to stop the recurring traditional incidents of harm and sometimes death against women and children in Ghana”.
The appeal by FIDA-Ghana, comes against the backdrop of the recent lynching of the 90-year old Madam Akua Denteh in the Savannah Region, who was accused of being a witch.
The statement said the general condemnation of the atrocious lynching of Madam Denteh was an indication of the nation’s abhorrence to such practices.
However, the reality of the situation was that it could happen again, and so the country needed to halt “this age old practice which is replete with multiple rights violations.
“The stigma of being in witch camps where young girls who accompany older women to the camps are unable to progressively attain physical, mental and social development to their fullest potential, calls for an intensive scrutiny of our customs and usages,” the FIDA-Ghana statement sated.
It expressed regret that there had been a regular reportage of incidents of dehumanizing customary practices and usages.
FIDA-Ghana said the issue of witch camps had been a stain on Ghana’s human rights records, which had also gained the attention of the global community as the country’s periodic reports to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) committee had been flagged up always and recommended to Ghana, to modify some of its practices.
The statement said the State had an obligation to protect its citizens, as pointed out in Article 26 of the Constitution, which prohibits all customary practices that dehumanize or were injurious to the physical and mental wellbeing of a person.
While admitting that the State alone could not deal effectively with the situation, FIDA-Ghana said it acknowledged that a number of traditional rulers have taken bold steps to eliminate some harmful traditional practices against women and children in their traditional councils.