Human rights – A glimpse into Ghana

Standing tall as a strong democracy and the fastest growing economy in Africa, Ghana continues to write her story in the fight for fundamental human rights of all citizens, achieving a couple of wins, amidst many challenges.

The country made significant strides as the right to information (RTI) law took effect in 2020. The Bill, which was enacted in 2019, was meant to encourage transparency and accountability by the government. Other noteworthy achievements in the last few years include free meals for school children and free basic and senior high school education.

A random search on television, radio or social media channels in Ghana, would showcase journalists, politicians and talk show hosts expressing their views freely on different matters, including sensitive issues of national interest. On this backdrop of free expression, it was shocking to witness the heart wrenching murder of Ahmed Suale, an investigative journalist, whose work on corruption, incited calls for brutality against him from a ruling parliamentarian. This, including other recent incidents of threats and attacks on the media, have caused the county’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index to drop from 27 to 30.

Women are gradually gaining more representation in politics and other significant spheres of society. This bears witness to the nation’s progress in her fight for women’s rights and gender equality. However, the battle to stop violence against women remains fierce. The Kidnapping of 3 young girls in Takoradi (Western Region), set social media ablaze with the hashtag, #BringBackOurTaadiGirls. The sad ending to this narrative was that the girls were found and confirmed dead by the police. There are ongoing conversations about how the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially lead to drastic increases in domestic abuse of Ghanaian women, due to the amplified strain on households.

Picturing a loved one, shackled in iron chains, might be unbearable for most. Yet, some citizens of the country have resorted to sending individuals with mental health problems to certain prayer camps, where they are chained, flogged and subjected to other inhumane treatment by notorious faith healers. On the brighter side, strong community and credible religious support systems have been very helpful in the mental health arena. While a growing number of NGOs strive to raise awareness and improve on mental healthcare in the country, there is still a dire need to increase the number of mental health hospitals in the country, as the few which are available are seriously congested.

In Ghana, some condemned prisoners remain on death row, though there has been no recorded execution since 1993. Organizations like Amnesty International have called for an abolition of this law. Many Prisoners continue to be packed in crowded cells within the country with an inadequate supply of food and medicine. Hopefully, ongoing efforts by the Ghanaian government and religious institutions like the Church of Pentecost, to build more correctional facilities, will considerably reduce prison congestion in the near future.

Children are not left out in the struggle for rights in Ghana. Child labour remains a prevalent issue, as reports show an upsurge in the use of children as workers on cocoa farms. Recent reports have also thrown light on child trafficking issues. Some medical persons are alleged to have been involved in the recent trafficking of two babies.

The list continues with issues on environmental rights, housing and more.

In spite of the pockets of setbacks, major actors on the human rights scene are making great headway in ensuring rights and freedoms for all.