The International Federation of Women Lawyers(FIDA) Ghana has made a clarion call to all women and girls who have faced sexual harassment in churches to come out and share their experiences.
According to FIDA, honouring this call will raise awareness about the despicable act of sexual Harassment.
“It is now time for women and girls who have been sexually harassed in churches to come out with their experiences in order to raise awareness of these despicable acts,” it said.
The above statement is contained in a press release by the Federation, dated August 18, 2021, and signed by the Ghana President, Afua Brown-Eyeson.
FIDA further notes that it has seen the circulated screenshots of chats allegedly posted by students of the same school where the Anglican priest, Rev. Father Balthazar Obeng Larbi Kissed the girls during a school church service, which suggest that the above incident is the modus operandi of the reverend father.
The statement lamented the fact that the issue of sexual harassment has been side-lined and silenced in the church and noted that it is time to challenge the cultures of entitlement and abuse of power by the clerics.
Also, the federation by its statement has drawn attention to the fact that sexual harassment is gender-based violence and a violation of the human rights of women and girls, and prohibited by the constitution of Ghana and therefore called for the Affirmative Action Law.
“Needless to say, sexual harassment is gender-based violence and a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is prohibited in the 1992 Constitution, the Domestic Violence Act and the Labour Act.
“The Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) defines “sexual harassment as any unwelcome, offensive or importunate sexual advances or request made by an employer or superior officer or a co-worker, whether the worker is a man or woman. The effect of sexual harassment in the academic and professional lives of women has in most situations denied women of their rightful places of merit and contributed to the huge gender gaps in education and the workplace, thus the need for the Affirmative Action Law,” it added.
FIDA however applauds the Anglican Church of Ghana for taking this matter seriously by relieving Rev. Father Larbi of his duties, providing counselling for the girls and investigating the unfortunate incident.
The statement ends by appealing to all media houses and persons to be circumspect in sharing the video to protect the identity of the girls as they are victims, and called on leaders at every level within religious Institutions to initiate changes and to establish and maintain a culture which abhors sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.