Last year has been challenging for human rights around the globe. But December brought good news for many women, men, girls and boys in Ghana. In Accra, Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo and the Second Lady, Hajia Samira Bawumia, inaugurated the country first model child-friendly gender-based violence court.
Providing justice for every Ghanaian Child
This new service answers Ghanaian call to provide access to justice to its most vulnerable population: its children. This court aims to enhance children’s experience of the justice system, to protect the rights of children and provide appropriate support for young offenders. It is equipped with child friendly facilities to reduce anxiety and stress of children who are often victims or witnesses of crimes.
“Child-friendly procedures are expected to make the legal process less daunting for a child and also enhance the quality of the child’s testimony” said Melody Darkey, Program Coordinator for Crossroads International’s local partner WiLDAF Ghana. “We hope that this project will be reinforced with child rights committees in communities and schools across the country to help educate parents and children about their rights.”
This initiative represents a win in Crossroads’ work to increase access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence in Ghana. Jointly with WiLDAF Ghana, Crossroads has worked for more than a decade to increase legal literacy and knowledge of women’s rights and the domestic violence act. The programs are supporting the training of legal literacy volunteer, judicial actors and traditional leaders.
In 2018, Crossroads supported a Court Watch initiative in which a team of volunteers observed 280 court cases to evaluate women’s and girls’ access to justice and the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. This Court Watch revealed serious and persistent issues in girls’ and women’s experience of violence and diminished access to justice. It is widely believed that strengthening the Ghanaian justice system with this first child-friendly gender-based violence court, could increase the rate of successful prosecution.
IMPLEMENTING a strong legal system
The court will consider children’s rights to protection and their individual needs and views.
“It is our hope that judges, prosecutors, and the entire justice system will cater for the physical and emotional needs of children to enable them to give evidence in court without fear or intimidation, recognizing their extreme vulnerability and doing the necessary to prevent them from re-living traumatic situations. ” said Simidele Orimolade, Program officer for Crossroads International in Ghana.
The child friendly model court is planned to be replicated in nine other courts in other regions of the country.
But to be successful, Darkey says “the initiative must be supported by long-term funding and should also provide proper training for social workers, police officers, teachers, doctors, nurses and anyone who might encounter children who have been either a victim, a witness, a complainant or an offender, making the entire system more efficient.”