Twenty-one per cent of girls below 18 years in Ghana are engaged in child marriage while the rate stands at 31 per cent in the three Northern regions, the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) noted on Wednesday.
The HRAC described the development as worrying and called for robust efforts to mitigate it as it said it was illegal for children to marry below the legal age.
Ms Wendy Abbey, the Acting Executive Director of the HRAC, said this in Accra when the HRAC joined the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health to deliberate on a policy dubbed: “Gaps in Sexual and Reproductive Health Right in Ghanaian law”.
Ms Abbey said Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) were recognised by a range of national policies but women and girls continued to suffer from limited access to sexual education, abortion services and contraception.
Despite the policies on SRHR in Ghana, the Acting Executive Director said, gaps such as lack of national policy on SRHR, and lack of sexual education for children and adolescents hampered the full realisation of the SRHR in the Ghanaian concept.
The event was thus, aimed at making recommendations to government to adopt a single national SRHR policy to empower doctors, lawyers, and law enforcement officers to understand the rights of the people they interact with.
She called for a redrafting of the abortion law to reduce the increasing rate of unwanted pregnancies as well as teenage pregnancy.
She said: “forty percent of girls living in the rural areas get married before age eighteen as compared to twenty- percent in the urban area, she said blaming it on poverty and lack of education.
Dr John Kingsley Krugu, Executive Director of Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana, urged the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection to fuel the implementation of the National Strategic plan to end Child Marriage.
Dr Krugu recommended that the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection with the Ministry of Education mount programmes to educate adolescents about sexual and reproductive health in schools.
He urged the Ministry of Education to ensure that leaders of all educational institutions allowed pregnant girls stay in school as long as they could before delivery.
In an interview with Mr William Kwesi Sabi, the Vice Chair of Parliamentary Committee on Health said: “the nation would lose what the youth could have done to help in the development of the nation if the issue of child marriage is not curtailed”.
He pleaded that the strategies that have been discussed be implemented to build a better society and advised parents to desist from forcing their children into early marriages as such acts affected the future of the child and society at large.
Miss Abbey expressed gratitude to all who contributed to the program and pledged to follow parliamentary proceedings on the new additions to the SRHR national policy amongst other recommendations that required government intervention.
The Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) is a not-for-profit, independent, non-partisan, research and advocacy organization set up to advance and protect human rights in Ghana.
Established in 2008, the HRAC was set up by Nana Oye Lithur, the former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection.