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Psychological effects of Gender-Based Violence

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By: Mavis Offei Acheampong

Inadequate support systems and psychosocial support continue to expose victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) to more harm. This also makes it difficult for them to report their preparators to authorities and agencies for protection and assistance.

Advocates of Gender-Based Violence have therefore called for more psychosocial support systems in terms of shelter and psychological support for victims in order to reduce the trauma the victims go through.

Mavis Offei Acheampong in this report brings us more on the Psychological effects of GBV on victims and what can be done to save them.

Child abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, emotional and economic abuse as well as femicide and assault are but just a few examples of gender-based violence.

In Ghana, women and girls face several barriers including cultural beliefs, societal stigma, and fear of their perpetrator when it comes to reporting violence perpetrated against them.

Like Madam Fati’s 14-year-old daughter, who for the purpose of this report will be called Ishatu is believed to have suffered some form of sexual abuse from her dad, no amount of persuading from her mother Fati will make Ishatu open up on what her father has been doing to her for the past one year.

Madam Fati tells me, all of this started after her breakup with her husband two years ago. Her daughter had to stay with the father because she had no regular income.

Madam Fati says the covid lockdown worsened her daughter’s woes. Though she reported the case to the various authorities, her economic challenges prevented her from getting the immediate help she needed for her child.

With the help of other civil society organizations and Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) her daughter is now in her custody.

Like Madam Fati’s daughter, these violent acts perpetrated against victims of Gender-Based Violence according to Psychologists may result in fear, isolation, loss of trust and self-esteem that can lead to depression and anxiety disorders in the lives of victims or survivors.

The Head at the Psychiatry Unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr Ruth Antwi said, seeking early assistance when abused is key in safe guarding the mental health of the victim or survivors.

Dr Ruth Antwi called for more counsellors who are knowledgeable in Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Doctors in mental health who will complement the work of clinical Psychologists in the regional hospitals.

Countless GBV victims are compelled to stay with their perpetrators due to fear, economic challenges, the lack of adequate support systems, shelters among others.

Ghana currently has only three shelters which according to advocates are woefully inadequate.

Statistics indicates that 33 to 37 percent of women in Ghana experience a form of violence in their relationship. 14 percent of girls are victims of sexual abuse with 52 percent experiencing gender-based violence.

These numbers may be understated as most girls turn not to report the crime for fear of reprisal.

The call therefore is to give a listening ear to victims and survivors of GBV which in itself is a first step to reducing the psychological impact on their minds.

Ghana’s 1992 Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex. The 1998 Criminal Code Amendment Act; 6 and legal amendments also criminalizes certain harmful traditional practices, such as widowhood rites (1984), there is also the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) (1995) and Child Abuse (1998) and the Domestic Violence Act (Act 732).

A Gender Based Violence activist Madam Bushiratu Mahamdu who is also the Gender and Equality Officer at the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) says though these laws protects the women’s right, there is still the need for governments commitment in providing the needed support systems while ratifying convention 190 of the ILO and investing more into the Domestic Violence Fund that was set up in 2015-2016.

Gender Based violence in any form may have a short- or long-term psychological effects on victims or survivors and must not be taking for granted.

For Ghana Today Mavis Offei Acheampong reporting.

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