Parents’ Dilemma by Nameera Saleem, India

Gender-based sexual violence takes many forms, including forced marriages.  According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, marriage must be consensual between both parties.  FILE/UNPHOTO/Fred NoyFrom my observation in Ghana where I live, poverty is a consequence of human rights violations. Poverty described as the lack of shelter, food, clothing, education and other important needs of life is very common in the Ghanaian society.

Girls from the Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions of Ghana are usually given out in marriage at very young ages against their will. This is a clear violation of article16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration in article 16 says marriage must be at the full consent of both parties.

The girls are forced to marry men old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers against their will. However, many of the girls escape from their so called marital s to the south of Ghana . They settle at the two major cities, Kumasi and Accra . In these two cities, most of them become courier girls popularly called "KAYAYEI" in Ghana and also live in slums. Many of these girls hardly go to school or receive training to make a living. Irresponsible men rape and impregnate majority. The result is that many street children are brought into the streets which they know as . Unfortunately, many of these street children grow up to become deviants in the society. They are denied many basic necessities of life and find it difficult to feed or clothe themselves.

In addition, in some parts of the Volta region of Ghana , young virgins are forced to marry traditional priests. It is the punishment they are to serve for the crime or misfortune of their family members. This is popularly called "TROKOSI" in the Ewe language in Ghana . These virgins are kept behind closed gates in the compound of the priest. They are never allowed go to out. They never go to school or learn a trade. With time, most of them give birth to children who are also kept away from the society. In this situation, they are denied most basic necessities of life such as education, clothing, good shelter, health and proper food.

Everybody must educate himself or herself on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the constitution of Ghana . It is not enough for one to know the law, people must demand for their rights. These, I believe are ways of preventing poverty.

Excerpted from Edem Doreen Akua Asimadu , Age Group 13-15, Ghana, Winner, Writing Contest for International Human Rights Day 2006, Cyberschoolbus, United Nations