The Republic of Ghana has enacted a progressive legislation in order to protect children from any kind of abuse and exploitation. These provisions are however too often disregarded. Children are commonly employed in unsafe workplaces and girls are the object of sexual abuse and are often forced into prostitution. The lack of funding and expertise is one of the many causes of this humanitarian emergency. The government does not have the resources for implementing these provisions which therefore end up being ineffectual.
The Ghanaian regulatory framework
After being the first country to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, the Republic of Ghana six year later strived to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention in its own Constitution.
Article 28 of the Ghanaian Constitution 1992 mandates the parliament to enact adequate laws in order to secure that ‘every child has the same measure of special care, assistance and maintenance as is necessary for its development from its natural parents […]’. Additionally, section 28(d) entitles children and young people to receive protection from exposure to physical and moral hazard.
The most important provision which was implemented in order to translate into practice the constitutional provisions was the Ghanaian Children Act of 1998. Article 8 of the Children Act establishes that children cannot be deprived of their right to ‘education, immunization, adequate diet, clothing, shelter, medical attention and any other thing that might be necessary for their development.
The Children’s Act also aims to protect the right of the child to the protection of its right of expression and actualization of its personality and interests. Article 9 indeed states that children are entitled to participate in sportive, cultural and artistic initiatives as well as other leisure activities
Significantly, sections 12 and 87 of the Children’s Act forbids the exploitation of child labour. Exploitation is broadly defined by article 87 so as to encompass any form of labour which ‘deprives the child of health, education and development.
Ineffective implementation of child protection regulations
Although on paper the regulatory framework is quite advanced its ineffectual implementation means that a great number of children are still lacking basic human rights. It has been recently estimated that the 54% of the Ghanaian population is made of people below the age of 18. UNICEF Ghana that a vast number of children experience poor economic conditions and enjoys insufficient access to potable water, food, education, health care and education. UNICEF also found that children are regularly subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, including painful corporal punishment and statutory rape. Among adolescent girls, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse is great source of concern among local communities. A study conducted by UNICEF in 2011 has shown that girls are at risk of suffering sexual abuse from step-fathers, teachers as well as their own peers. Prostitution, sexual exploitation and early arranged marriages are also common in some rural communities.
Child labour is also a recurring plague. Children are often forced to work in plantations and are therefore deprived of sufficient access to education. For instance, UNICEF has reported that in the l district of Wa West, child labour is also present in hazardous and harmful activities such as mining.
Children often do not receive financial support or are often neglected by their families. In particular, fathers often fail to pay maintenance for their off-springs, especially in a scenario where traditional family structures are experiencing a deep crisis.
This scenario is rapidly worsening as a consequence of the rife urbanisation which is disruption traditional family units. In urban conglomerates the number of street children is on the rise. These children are often force to work and denied access to education. In view of this, PAAJAF has setup scholarship school project in the Gbawe Community – PEI.
In 2005 a study conducted by the Ghana NGO Coalition on the Right of the Child displayed the absence of collaboration from local families, including the failure to report violations to the department of social welfare, as well as to the department of children, are among the reasons for the ineffective implementation of the regulatory framework.
Deeper research has also shown that the limited amount of resources has been one of the contributing factors to the ineffectual implementation of the Children Act. The implementation of the policy has also been affected by the absence of skilled personnel and the lack of information among the majority of the population about the enactment of those provisions.
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Convention on the Rights of the Child, General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 (entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49).
 The Constitution of the Republic of Ghana of 1992.
The Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560).
Ahmed Bawa Kuyin, Fati K. Mahama ‘Implementing Child Rights and Protection Lawin Ghana: Case Study’ available at http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/3328/1/Child_Rights_Protection_Law_in_Ghana.pdf, accessed on 17/04/2016.
Unicef ‘REPORT OF THE MAPPING ANDANALYSIS OF GHANA’S CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM’ 2011, available at http://www.unicef.org/wcaro/english/Ghana_Mapping_Analysis_Child_Protection.pdf,accessed on 17/04/2016.
Ahmed Bawa Kuyin, Fati K. Mahama (n 6).