Gender-based violence survivors pay own medical bills — report

Gender-based violence survivors pay own medical bills -- report

Research conducted by Civil Society Organisations, Oxfam and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), has revealed that survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) are made to pay from GH¢300 to as much as GH¢1500 to obtain medical report from a health facility even though it contradicts provisions in the law.

The Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (Act 732) section 8 (3) and its Legislative Instrument, provide that a victim of domestic violence, who is assisted by the Police to obtain medical treatment is entitled to free medical treatment from the state. However, the reality on the ground contradicts the provision in the Act.

According to the research dubbed ‘Enough! Empowering women, girls, boys and men to take positive action in ending gender-based violence in Ghana’, due to the fees charged by medical officers for completion of the Police Medical Form, many perpetrators go unpunished because of insufficient evidence to support prosecution of cases since survivors are unable to pay. This prevents survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) from accessing justice, the research showed.

The Country Director of Oxfam – Tijani Hamza, at a press engagement on Domestic Violent Act research: Gaps and Recommendations in Accra, elaborated some statistics on domestic violence and objectives of the project.

He said records of teenage pregnancies by the Ghana Health Service District Health Information Management System (DHIMS) for the year 2020 revealed 2,865 pregnancies among girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years, and 107,023 pregnancies amongst girls between the ages of 15 to 19 years.

In spite of this rise, the case numbers against perpetrators of rape/defilement prosecuted for these offences did not rise, indicating failure in moving these cases forward. Reasons for this include lack of evidence to assist the prosecution of SGBV cases, particularly rape and defilement which connect to the pervasive absence of medical reports when survivors are unable to pay the fees charged.

A Consultant, Bernice Sam, who made the presentation on the overview of the entire project, named a number of recommendations that can assist survivors obtain justice.

“To support victims of SGBV in accessing justice, we call on Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection (MOGCSP) and Ministry of Health to work together in ensuring that a circular is issued by Ghana Health Service to health facilities, that health personnel should desist from charging victims for completion of Police Medical Forms.

Copies of the medical forms must be available in all health facilities. We also recommend that, in addition to hard copies, an online version will make it easy for medical doctors to complete the form for onward submission to the Police.

Ministry of Finance should continuously allocate and transfer funds into the Domestic Violence Fund to provide free medical care and other support to domestic violence and other GBV survivors including survivors of sexual harassment and rape, stipulated in the sections 8(3) and 29 of the DV Act, 2007 as amended and its LI 2237,” she said.

She added: “The capacity of key actors including prosecutors, crime officers, Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DoVVSU) personnel, medical personnel and other officials in charge of social services should be enhanced; ensure proper management of SGBV related cases such as rape and defilement cases.

Civil Society Organisations must continue to advocate for the implementation of the provision of free medical report for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence specifically survivors of rape and defilement.”

“Individuals must shift their mindsets and attitudes, and reject norms that promote rape, defilement and other forms of gender-based violence. We must further desist from victim-blaming in cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

Report any incidence of rape and defilement to the Ghana Police Service DOVVSU division,” Ms. Bernice Sam reiterated.

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