13th June 2024

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called on women judges to leverage their collective legal acumen to dismantle barriers to justice and combat negative cultural practices affecting women and children.

He said these negative cultural practices are not just an affront to the victims but are a blemish on the collective human conscience.

Speaking at the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) Conference in Accra, President Akufo-Addo said “as judges and upholders of the law, you have the power to redefine norms and set precedents that protect the vulnerable and marginalised.”

The President said it is imperative to acknowledge that the fight against these practices is not confined to the courtrooms and that education, awareness and collaborative governance are critical.

“We must engage traditional leaders, educators and communities to recalibrate mindsets and attitudes. It is in our schools, homes and community gatherings where the foundational beliefs of our next generation are formed,” he averred.

Here, the President said, lies the strategic importance of holistic approaches that include legal repercussions, as well as preventative measures through education and community engagement.

Shaping judiciary

President Akufo-Addo, who described the work of the International Association of Women Judges as pivotal in helping shape judiciaries across the globe, said the association had worked diligently to promote the participation of women in the judiciary.

Since its inception, some 30 years ago, President Akufo-Addo said, the association had remained a vital force for good in the world as its members enhance the quality of justice, support the professional growth of women in the judiciary and advocate fairness and gender equality.

The presence of women at all levels of the judicial system, according to him, not only enhances the perspective within the judiciary but also strengthens public confidence in the justice delivery system.

“I know this because I have had the honour of appointing, since becoming President in 2017, many women to all the various levels of our judicial ladder, including two to the highest office, that of Chief Justice, of which the most recent is the current Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Gertrude Torkornoo,” he stated.

Women judges, he noted, represent the spirit of justice and the enduring promise of equality within Ghana’s judiciary. “They can bring unique insights and life experiences to the bench, enriching the interpretation and application of the law,”  he added.

He said Ghana’s commitment to the rule of law is steadfast and one that transcends political ideologies and administrations, “for it is the bedrock of our democracy, and the guardian of our freedoms.”

President Akufo-Addo said as Ghanaians turn their collective focus towards eradicating negative cultural practices that had long hindered progress, especially among women and girls, the role of women judges becomes undeniably pivotal.

Women judges across Africa and the globe, he indicated, bring unique viewpoints and strengths to the judiciary. “Their experiences, often mirroring the societal challenges we seek to overcome, equip them uniquely to advocate for justice and fairness.

“In dealing with issues like gender-based violence, child marriage, widowhood rites and female genital mutilation – practices steeped in deep-rooted cultural norms – your voices and rulings can resonate deeply, driving societal transformation,” the President challenged the women Judges.

Strides

He said even though Ghana had made strides in promoting gender equality through legal reforms and societal education, the eradication of detrimental cultural practices requires relentless effort and strong dedication.

Successive Governments, according to President Akufo-Addo, have undertaken several initiatives to combat negative cultural practices affecting women and girls.

“These efforts span legal reforms, educational programmes and community engagement strategies.

“We have implemented and enforced laws aimed at protecting women and girls from harmful practices. For instance, the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, Act 732, the preparation of which was initiated during my time as Attorney General, protects against domestic abuse, including traditional practices that harm women and girls,” he stated.

He added: “The Human Trafficking Act of 2005, Act 694, whose preparation also began during my time, is another crucial legislation aimed at combating human trafficking, which disproportionately affects women and girls.”

Ghana has also outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM), the harmful practice inflicted on girls, which is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights.

The government has not only legislated against this practice but also works with local communities and leaders to enforce this ban effectively.

In collaboration with NGOs, the President said, his Government continues to conduct awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of negative cultural practices like child marriage, gender-based violence and FGM.

“These campaigns are aimed at changing societal attitudes and norms that perpetuate these practices,” he posited, adding that the progress on this front is significantly attributed to the increasing presence of women in the judicial system.

“Their expertise and empathetic adjudication have consistently reinforced the protective framework for women and children,” he added.

President Akufo-Addo assured that the Government of Ghana is committed to supporting the judiciary to ensure justice for all. “We are determined to improve judicial infrastructure, providing resources, and ensuring the safety and security of judges who often face risks in the line of their duties.”

IAWJ

Founded in 1991, IAWJ is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that brings together judges from all levels of the judiciary worldwide, creating a powerful network of influential leaders united by their commitment to equal justice and the rule of law.

Through judicial and community-level response, the association address issues of gender-based violence, human trafficking, early and forced marriages, corruption, and discrimination in employment, inheritance, education and health services.

 

 

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