Women’s condition

Ghana has a very advanced legal framework which is almost perfectly functional to address gender-related discriminations. Shortcomings in the implementation, along with cultural issues, have prevented this framework from reaching an acceptable level of implementation.

 

Excerpts of the Ghanaian legal framework

 

Chapter five of the Ghanaian Constitution of 1992 draws a comprehensive human right regime which encompasses civil, cultural right. In particular, article 17(2) also addresses gender-related issues:

‘A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.’

Subsection four of the same article declares that the Ghanaian government has a positive duty to enact legislation with the aim to level socio-cultural, economic and educational imbalances.

Moreover, articles 18 and 22 of the Constitution also addresses issues which are peculiar to the Ghanaian socio-economic reality. Whilst article 18 guarantees the right to property, article 22 ensures that property is equitably distributed in the household:

Article 22 provides that spouses shall have equal access to property jointly acquired during marriage, and that assets which are jointly acquired during marriage shall be distributed equitably between the spouses upon dissolution of the marriage. Article 22 also prohibits the deprivation of a reasonable provision of a spouse’s estate upon death or dissolution of marriage.

In compliance with these obligations, Ghana has implemented several measures and signed various international Conventions with the objective to address gender imbalances in the Ghanaian society. Most notably, in July 2004 Ghana signed the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Article 2 of the ACHPR declares that ‘Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind’, including sex.[1]

 

Implementation: a quick look at the issues

 

These measures constitute an adequate legislative framework in theory. In practice, they are however often disregarded and given inadequate representation. The absence of sufficient and adequate implementation by the judiciary significantly undermines the ability of women to enforce these rights, with women in rural areas being especially affected.[2]

According to the findings of the Cedaw, although Ghana has made considerable improvements, bias against women continues to preclude access to education, means of production and decision-making at private as well as public level. Discriminations are compounded by the widespread cultural belief that men are superior. As a consequence, male children are given priority in the allocation of the limited financial resources of the family with regard to education. The limited access to education has a negative impact on women’s participation to the national decision-making process and, more generally, to the political life of the country.

Similarly, the rights of women with regard to property are too often hampered by polygamous marriages. The absence of a specific legislation on the matter has allowed the courts to take a variety of approaches which have too often caused women to be expropriated of their rights with regards to property.[3]

Furthermore, plans to reduce gender inequalities have been hindered by cultural factors, as well as by the shortcomings of the administration. For instance, Ghana has implemented a gender and agricultural development strategy (GADS) with the scope to tackle ‘the causes and affects of gender inequity’. Recent evaluations have shown that the plan has been slow to develop. In particular, research has demonstrated that a fair percentage of the staff of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture does not know about the GADS. Other factors, such as the shortcomings of the extension delivery system have affected the actualisation of gender policies.[4]

 

Conclusions

Ghana has significantly improved its legal framework with regard to gender issues. Effective implementation is nevertheless still to be achieved. It would require to address customs which are deeply rooted in the Ghanaian cultural background and it would therefore require allocation of greater resources as well as adequate training of local officials.

[1]Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division of FAO ‘Gender Inequalities in Rural Employment in Ghana Policy and Legislation’ (2012) http://www.statsghana.gov.gh/docfiles/Gender/FAO_GHANA_POLICY_FINAL2012.pdf .

[2] Cedaw ‘The Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination’ Cedaw/C/GHA/3-5 (18 April 2005) para 23-24.

[3] Cedaw ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’ CEDAW/C/GHA/6-7 (14 June 2012).

[4] Economic Commission for Africa ‘African Women’s report 2009: Measuring gender inequality in Africa: experiences and lessons from the African gender and development index’, 156.