Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make a Statement on the rise in forced early marriages in Ghana.
Mr Speaker, in accordance with our Constitution, under article 28 (5) on “Children's Rights,” at page 29, it states and I beg to quote, with your kind permission:
“For the purposes of this article, “child” means a person below the age of eighteen years.”
For the above reason, Mr Speaker, no child below age eighteen should be forced into marriage as early forced marriage is a crime that hinges on the rights of the child.
Mr Speaker, forced early marriage comes in many ways such as compulsion, coercion, pretension and adoption, to mention a few. These can be undertaken by relatives, parents, peers or agents.
Mr Speaker, according to Graham Crouch of an organisation called “Girls are not brides” each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18; that is, 28 girls are married off every minute endangering their personal development and well-being.
Mr Speaker, child brides face huge challenges as a result of being married early. They are always isolated, their freedom is curtailed, they are disempowered and deprived of their rights to health, education, safety and socialisation.
These girls are normally neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives or mothers. So, they stand a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and child
birth. Sometimes, this leads to death, contracting HlV/AIDS, suffering from domestic violence with little access or no opportunities of ever getting out of the situation.
Mr Speaker, according to an article by Alessandra Brivio (20th July 2016), young girls generally between 14 and 16 years old migrate from the rural areas of northern Ghana to the urban centres of the south, that is, Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and other parts of the country seeking greener pastures.
As stated, some of these girls normally run away from forced early marriages that are arranged by parents of both parties, relatives or other interested persons.
Mr Speaker, these girls who ran away from home find themselves migrating to the urban areas where they come to seek refuge with the hope of making life better, but their vulnerabilities leave them exposed to sanitation-related illnesses such as malaria, diarrhoea, skin diseases, sexual violence, which come with increasing HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unplanned pregnancies, illegal abortions, gender based violence and human trafficking, thus making their plight worse than what they run away from.
Mr Speaker, sometimes, this leads to modern day slavery, which is a crime, but it spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain.
As most of these girls who are all seeking opportunities without question are ready to go with anybody who is able to convince them to any place, without their prior knowledge of where, who and what they are going to be faced with, they find themselves in worse of situations, most probably in different countries.