Notes to broadcasters
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is any act, or the threat of an act, that causes physical, psychological/emotional, economic, or sexual pain or injury to a person because of that person’s gender.
Examples of SGBV that can lead to death, physical injury, or psychological trauma include infanticide, honour killing, female genital mutilation, femicide, human trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage, confinement, dispossession, rape (of an intimate partner or non-partner), domestic violence, and humiliation.
Increasing reports of physical and spousal abuse to police led the Ghana Police Administration in 1998 to establish the Women and Juvenile Unit, which is now called DOVVSU (Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit). This is a specialized unit that handles crimes against women and children. The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2007 and the Legislative Instrument in 2016 have also helped tackle domestic violence in Ghana.
In spite of the existence of DOVVSU, Ghana still faces increased reports of SGBV because there are inadequate essential services to address it, including social services, educational, and health services. For example, survivors of sexualized violence must pay for medical fees though they are supposed to be free; there are limited DOVVSU offices and staff at the district and community levels; there are limited shelter facilities for survivors; and the degree of ignorance about SGBV allows perpetrators to behave without consequences.
Coupled with limited access to essential services such as shelters and hotlines, this has created a situation where SGBV thrives in many communities in Ghana. These challenges make it necessary to educate Ghanaians about SGBV, so that they are aware of the services available to them, and the steps they need to take to get justice.
This script includes real and fictional representations of survivors of SGBV as well as social workers and advocates who fight against SGBV in their line of work. They discuss SGBV at the workplace and in the informal work sector and suggest the best way forward in Ghana. If you want to create programs about sexualized and gender-based violence and the services available to support survivors of SGBV, talk to people who work in social service organizations and other supporting organizations, and, if possible, speak with survivors of SGBV. You might want to ask them the following questions:
- What is the definition of SGBV and what does it include?
- How common are instances of SGBV in this area?
- What services are available in this area to support survivors of SGBV?
- What are the most important things to remember in caring for survivors?
- What kinds of policies should workplaces enact to ensure that offices, farms, and other places are safe for all workers?
Estimated duration of the radio script with music, intro and extro: 25-30 minutes
Most people assume SGBV is rape or sexual assault. But it includes many other forms of violence and encompasses all forms of unwanted sexual contact or interactions. Sexualized violence is an overarching term used to describe any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality.
As part of my introduction, I’ll allow Mr. Kojo Addo to give us some statistics on the topic as it is tracked in Ghana.
Just a note to our listeners: Today’s discussion will cover topics such as rape in detail and may be disturbing to some.
I must state emphatically that SGBV is a violation of human rights. It denies the human dignity of the individual and hurts human development.
In 2016, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection undertook a study on domestic violence which revealed that nearly 40% of women in Ghana have experienced physical violence while one in ten were sexually assaulted.
It is estimated that at least one in three women will experience some sort of violence in their lifetime. This represents more than one billion women worldwide. And it is the poorest and most marginalized of women who face the greatest risks of violence.
It’s a fact that essential services to address gender-based violence from social services, from police and the justice sector, and from educational and health services have not been adequately provided to state actors and citizens in Ghana. There are limited DOVVSU offices and personnel at the district and community level. DOVVSU is the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit. DOVVSU is under-resourced and has limited shelter facilities for women who have survived SGBV. These limitations make it easier for perpetrators of sexualized violence to act without consequences. An unprepared system with these kinds of flaws will fail many women, and may even cause them further harm.
I strongly believe that there remain flaws in the system and that these encourage SGBV in our country, and make it more difficult for survivors to come forward.
The informal sector is huge and there’s a wide range of workers in such workspaces. We need to put pressure on the system to put structures in place to deal with sexualized violence in informal sectors. The informal sector must have policies, or at least agreed-upon and expected standards of conduct, to deal with sexual harassment, exploitation, and rape.
I met people who experienced SGBV in their workplaces and kept their predicament to themselves because they feared no one would believe them. Most of these people were abused by their superiors and they knew they ran the risk of losing their jobs.
This can also happen on a farm where a farmer asks their labourer or harvester for sexual favours in exchange for keeping their jobs. The lack of regulation and oversight in the informal sector means that it is even less prepared to deal with sexual harassment and exploitation. But it is happening there and must be stopped in order to ensure that all workers are safe and secure.
I had the same experience as a teenager. I was sexually abused by a schoolmate but I was never ready to report the issue due to my fear of stigmatization. I held onto my hurt for as long as I could until I encountered a friend who was in a similar situation. We shared our experiences with each other and supported each other to manage our fears. Then we decided to report to the authorities. We journeyed together in our counselling sessions and joined a secret club where we met with other SGBV survivors. Speaking with counsellors helped us greatly on the journey.
Do offices and other workplaces typically have a code of conduct to follow with regards to sexual harassment, exploitation, and SGBV in general?
What kinds of consequences do you think that perpetrators of SGBV in workplaces should face?
This is Radio Buzz Feed. Don’t touch that dial!
Just a reminder to listeners that today’s discussion will cover topics such as rape in detail and may be disturbing to some listeners.
We have a caller on the line.
Hello, can you hear me?
HOST: I’m so sorry to hear what you experienced at your former employment. Joycelyn will answer your question.
Does sexualized and gender-based violence exist in rural workplaces? If so, what is the best way to deal with it in rural work spaces such as a farm, market place, or community centre?
If this happens, people will have confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously and that issues can be resolved fairly. Centres and agencies must be supported to provide survivors with financial, psychological, and professional guidance to address sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
Rape and harassment cannot be justified on the basis of someone’s appearance or way of dressing, or our interpretation of their communication as “flirting.” We must change our attitudes if we believe that, when a woman dresses in a particular way, it is equivalent to an invitation for sex. If you sexually harass a woman you work with because she flirts with you or dresses in a way that attracts you, this is inappropriate and constitutes sexual or gender-based violence, depending on the details.
There is no justification for any form of sexual or gender-based violence, which is defined by whether or not someone explicitly says that an action is wanted.
It’s important to note that, because a workplace always involves inequalities in power, when a person gives his or her boss or supervisor consent, it may be based on fear of losing their job. The validity of a person’s consent depends on whether it is given from fear of negative consequences and whether there is unequal power between people. It’s important to remember that consent given by someone with less power to someone with more power is not valid. The person with less power cannot give consent freely. This is true whether the situation involves a formal hierarchy of job roles or whether power imbalances are informal, such as differences in physical strength or access to transportation to physically leave a situation.
Find out about the services available for survivors in your community, including health clinics and women’s centres, and share these options with survivors. If you are in a rural area and the survivor is comfortable with doing so, help them to report to the chief or the local assembly or labour office. If there are no labour offices in your community, reporting to the police may be an option, while keeping in mind that abuses of power can happen in any context so this may not always feel safe for the survivor.
Remember, support the survivor and respect their wishes to avoid further traumatizing or endangering them.
Thank you, Kojo Addo and Joycelyn Okyere. I have indeed learnt so much from our discussion today and I believe our listeners have also been enlightened. Until we meet again, this is Karim Stephan, on Radio Buzz Feed, Heart 90.9 FM. It’s bye for now!
Contributed by: Abena Danso Dansoa, script writing and research consultant, Eagles Roar Creatives
Reviewed by: Gina Vukojevic, Gender, Equality and Inclusion (GEI) Officer
Mr. Kojo Addo, Social Worker – specializing in community development, policy advocacy, and youth development. November 2021 – January 2022.
Marina Anyidado, November 2021.
Jennifer Amoah, Communication and research consultant and sexual abuse advocate, November 2021 – January 2022.
Emefa Agbenu, trader. Lapaz, January, 2022.
Akosua Adobea Danso, receptionist, CIAST Group, November 2021 – January 2022.
Priscilla Armah Yawson, business owner (Gyasann Enterprise), January 2022.
Mr. Newman Aklamanu, tailor, November, 2021.
Janet Odei Danso, trader and market woman, November 2021.