Gender-based violence conviction rate ‘unacceptable’ – Victoria Natsu

file photoThe Acting Executive Secretary of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Secretariat has described as ‘unacceptable’ the 4.4 per cent conviction rate for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Ghana.

Victoria Natsu says the rate is low for a country that has ratified various international human rights instruments.

Ms Natsu, who wants the judicial system to be more responsive for victims to seek justice without delays, was speaking at a high profiled dialogue with the judiciary on ‘Improving Justice for Victims of Sexual and Gender-based Violence’ in Ghana.

The dialogue, organized by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with the Danish Development Assistance (DANIDA), was to strengthen efforts to secure justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Records available at the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) indicate that, a total of 15,749 SGBV cases were recorded in 2015 alone. Out of this figure, 4500 cases were assault on women, 316 were rape cases, and defilement accounted for 1,180.

Over the past five years from 2011 to 2015, the total number of SGBV cases that were recorded nationwide was 85,590. Out of this figure, 24,174 were assault of women, 1633 were rape cases, and defilement accounted for 5,982

The 2015 DOVVSU statistics further show that, out of the 1,291 sexual and gender-based violence cases sent to court, only 139 of those cases were convicted; with 10,945 of the reported cases for 2015 still under investigation.

In 2014 too, only 160 out of the 1,547 SGBV cases sent to court were convicted.

Ms Victoria Natsu expressed worry at the high rate of gender-based violence and its low conviction rate.

“Despite the various constitutional provisions and laudable effort by government, many sexual and gender-based violence cases are not convicted for which conviction rates continue to remain low in Ghana and this is not acceptable.”

She called on the judiciary to speed up on pending cases on sexual and gender-based violence.

But the director of Judicial Training Institute and a court of appeal judge, Justice Dennis Adjei, said prosecution and conviction are based on evidence.

He said the fact that a report has been lodged does not necessarily mean that the incident occurred, hence the need for the court to receive evidence before conviction.

“Conviction is not based on morality but rather conviction is based on the evidence adduced on record and if you convict, you must act within the tenet of the law.”

He urged the police to do thorough investigation when dealing with domestic violence cases to be able to prove the ingredients of the offence before arraigning the accused before the court.

“Most accused persons would continue to be acquitted if the prosecution is unable to submit sufficient evidence because the court acts within the context of the law.”

Justice Adjei assured that, the court will continue to serve justice to everybody, irrespective of his or her status in society.

The dialogue brought together judges of the various family tribunals, circuit and gender-based violence courts, high court and court of Appeal in all the ten regions.

Participants deliberated on issues that would strengthen efforts to secure justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

By Ibrahim Abubakar||Ghana

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