The purpose of this paper is to assess West African countries’ approach to address the issue of domestic violence (DV) in order to identify limitations and suggest policy measures. The paper situates DV in West Africa in the context of international literature and examines the question: what are the limitations of approaches to combating DV in West Africa and what is the way forward? The paper focusses on Ghana as a case example of efforts at addressing DV in West Africa. This is because Ghana is a pioneer among the very few West African countries that have developed a legislative cum policy framework to combat DV. A critical review of Ghana’s approach provides useful lessons for the way forward on policy against DV in the West Africa subregion.
The methodology adopted consists of a survey of existing literature – theoretical and empirical – on DV in the international and Ghanaian contexts, a critical reflection on Ghana’s DV law, and synthesis of the emerging knowledge combined with familiarity with the context to make policy suggestions. A general review of literature on DV provides background understanding of the phenomenon globally and in the context of West Africa. Then an examination of Ghana’s law against DV helps to identify the limitations of the legislative approach. Finally, the paper makes suggestions on how to combat DV in West Africa at large.
There is a high prevalence of DV in West Africa, particularly violence against women, although men also experience it. Some countries in the subregion, Ghana being an example, have adopted a legislative approach to deal with the problem. This approach criminalizes DV and requires victims or witnesses to report to the police. Perpetrators may be arrested and arraigned before a court and, if found culpable, fined or imprisoned while victims are promised protection and subsistence. The legislative approach is reactionary and cold, requiring reporting of violence even though this is not culturally expedient. The approach also frustrates victims who are willing to report by being cumbersome and costly. Finally, the approach is not built on any notable theory of DV.
The findings reported in this paper are based on secondary information. As a result, the analysis and conclusions are limited to what could be drawn from the documents reviewed and the experience of the author.
The paper suggests specific measures for combating DV in West Africa. These include setting up a national taskforce on DV to coordinate actions and activities toward ending violence, using traditional, and religious leadership structures to campaign against DV, designing mentoring groups for men and women who are preparing to get into marriage, using social workers instead of the police to support victims of violence, institutionalizing assessment and care for DV victims at the hospital, and setting up funding for DV research. These measures could go a long way in combating DV in West Africa.
This critical assessment of the legislative approach to combating DV in West Africa is about the first of its kind and therefore makes an original contribution to the literature. Also, the specific measures suggested in the paper are rare in reviews of its kind and therefore offers something of great value to policy makers and professionals in West Africa.
Issahaku, P. (2016), "Policy suggestions for combating domestic violence in West Africa", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 1/2, pp. 66-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-03-2015-0033Download as .RIS
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