Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The rule of radio

A woman was recently assaulted by her husband in a rural village outside Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region. The man wasn’t arrested and prosecuted, but his crime didn’t go unnoticed. It became the starting point for an ongoing discussion on the community radio station about how to stop domestic abuse.

In interviews with a variety of people in the community – men and women - they tackled central questions about women’s rights and domestic violence. Why do men feel entitled to abuse their wives? What can be done to stop them?

The program producer said the debate was cathartic and constructive; she said it allowed the community to have an open discussion about the causes and potential solutions to domestic violence.

She spoke about her radio station’s work on this story during a recent workshop for journalists in Tamale. As I listened to her recount the interviews they conducted and the questions they addressed, I thought about one that didn’t seem central to their debate: what role does the justice system play here?

Our human rights workshops are supposed focus primarily on access to justice for women and children, but that’s not why that question occurred to me. In Canada police and the courts are central to this discussion. I was quite surprised they didn’t seem to be important to the debate in this community.

I asked her if the recently passed Domestic Violence Act was discussed much in the community. She smiled politely. No, it wasn’t, she said.

We didn’t have an in-depth discussion about why the man wasn’t prosecuted, or why the community didn’t seem concerned that he wasn’t even though they were concerned about the issue itself.

It may be that they feel the justice system is too slow or unresponsive. It may be that it’s just not part of the way they solve problems. I don’t know for sure, but it’s important issue to keep in mind in discussions about human rights in Ghana, and around the world.

The rule of law may not be relevant but the role that radio plays certainly is.

- Mark

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark and Janet, Very interesting blog. Thank goodness for the radio being able to comment on this.
I watched a program on Vision TV this morning about the children and families in West Africa. It made me think of you and all the involvement you have with these dear people.
We, like the others that have commented on your blogs look forward to them.You are doing so much for these people.
Love, Mummy and Daddy