Domestic violence means engaging in acts that constitute a form of harassment threat or harm to a person, or behaviour likely to result in physical, sexual, economic, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse.
Scholars have mentioned that domestic violence exists and occurs in all countries, but its prevalence varies greatly across the world and even in Ghana.
There has been a lot of news about domestic violence in Ghana in recent times. This does not mean that it’s a new thing, but there seems to be increased media reportage of such events in the country.
The prevalence of domestic violence remains unacceptably high, with 10-69% of women worldwide being physically assaulted by an intimate male partner at some point in their lives.
Statistics in Ghana indicate that 33-37% of women have ever experienced domestic violence. Even in schools, research has shown that between14% and 52% of girls are victims of sexual abuse and gender-based violence respectively.
The facts are that these estimates may be far less than what persists, as violence against women and girls largely remains a hidden problem. Do not forget that only a few of them muster the courage to report abuse. God in His infinite wisdom created women as helpmates for men. He did not create a woman as a punch-mate for any man.
It has become necessary, therefore, to create awareness of the problem so we can address this issue. In recent times, some women have lost their lives to domestic and spousal abuse. We cannot sit aloof and allow able-bodied women to lose their lives to beasts masquerading as men.
It is a well-known fact that domestic violence, including spousal abuse, is a regular occurrence in Ghana. We need more professional awareness to help recognise when the evidence is before us demanding a response.
Women are still very much on the periphery of political, economic and social decision-making, and thus rely most often on decisions made by their male counterparts regarding their lives. We should be concerned about how to assist women to take their place of pride in society instead of turning them into punching bags.
The religious and sociocultural dogmas play significant roles in muzzling women and making them appear subordinate to men. Development communication strategies aimed at effecting a change in the attitude of men who abuse women must be part of the solution to this problem.
Much of Ghana’s fight against domestic violence has been geared toward social, economic and political systems which can be identified as the basic cause of domestic violence against women.
The Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of Ghana Police Service, DOVVSU, has a mission to prevent, apprehend and prosecute culprits of domestic violence and child abuse.
The unit provides support and protection for victims of domestic abuse by interrelating activities with the Department of Social Welfare, the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the Legal Aid Board.
Cultural inhibitions prevent most victims from seeking redress. Families of the couple try to find solutions to the problems, and sometimes it works. Most times the abuse ceases for a time, and a little while later it continues. Studies show that living with domestic violence can cause physical and emotional harm to children and young people in many ways.
There are many unreported cases of abuse. A lot of people are suffering in silence. Development communication is expected to engage stakeholders, policymakers and establish a conducive environment; assess risks and opportunities; and promote information exchanges to bring about positive social change through sustainable development.
A development communication strategy on how to fight domestic violence and spousal abuse must not be left on the backbench, it must be given utmost priority since Ghanaians love talking about problems without finding solutions to them.
A development communication strategy should have increase stakeholders’ awareness of domestic violence and spousal abuse as one of its objectives. The Gender Ministry should advocate for harsher punishment for culprits of domestic violence.
Any gender-based organisation should be able to mobilise influential women to speak on the negative effects of domestic violence.
The authorities should adopt the use of radio, television, social media, information, education and communication materials such as posters, leaflets, booklets in the various languages as to where to report domestic violence.
I have been an advocate for women to leave an abusive relationship/marriage. It is better to be alive than to be impaired. Children suffer most from domestic violence. They assume that what their parents are going through is normal, and may live with it for the rest of their lives.
Victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse must be empowered to speak up when they suffer emotional, sexual, social, financial, physical as well as spiritual abuse.
Abusers must be made to suffer any due punishment for their actions, as this serves as a deterrent for others.
The traditional/cultural notion that one must not be seen to wash their marital issues in the open is one of the reasons some victims remain in abusive marriages/relationships.
There should be a partnership with police, focusing on solving problems instead of reacting to crises. They should make it possible for neighbours to report suspicions of domestic violence and spousal abuse activity without fear of retaliation from the victims and their families.
Some Non-Governmental Organisations such as The Ark Foundation (The Ark), Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Ghana), Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (Gender Counselling) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF Ghana) have helped a lot in assisting victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse.
However, the Gender Ministry -which is the policy-making wing on gender issues – should do more on awareness creation, advocacy and behavioural and social change activities aimed at preventing the acts, rather than always reacting after the victims have perished.
We can make good use of community radios to drum home the effect of domestic violence and spousal abuse.
And we can develop and share a phone-list of local institutions that can provide counselling, job training, guidance, and other services which can help neighbours report acts of domestic violence and spousal abuse.
If we spend enough time on television and radio, social media, we should be able to reduce the canker to its barest minimum.
>>>The writer is a level 300 Journalism student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism.
Currently, he works as the assistant Public Relations officer of the Tema Metro Education Directorate.
It is as a result of his interest in development communication that he was pushed to write this particular article.
Email: [email protected]