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Key findings
  • Gender-based violence (GBV) ranks third among the most important women’s-rights issues that Ghanaians want their government and society to address.
  • More than three-fourths (78%) of citizens say violence against women is “not very common” or “not at all common” in their community, though 21% disagree.
  • More than eight in 10 Ghanaians (85%) say it is “never” justified for a man to use physical force to discipline his wife.
  • More than four in 10 respondents consider it “somewhat likely” (24%) or “very likely” (18%) that a woman will be criticised, harassed, or shamed if she reports gender- based violence to the authorities. Only about one-third (35%) say this is “very unlikely.”
  • But most citizens (86%) believe that the police are likely to take cases of GBV seriously.
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of Ghanaians say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter rather than as a private matter to be resolved within the family.

About one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime (World Health Organization, 2021), a “shadow pandemic” that may have been exacerbated by the social and economic effects of COVID-19 (UN Women, 2020).

In Ghana, the most recent Demographic and Health Survey reported that 36.6% of women had experienced physical violence since age 15, including 17.2% during the previous year (Ghana Statistical Service, 2009). About one in four Ghanaian women have suffered physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner (UN Women, 2022). The Ghana Police Service reported 16,000 cases of domestic violence in 2020 (GBCGhanaonline, 2022a; Ghanaian Times, 2022; B&FTonline, 2022) – almost certainly an under-estimate of the problem, as many cases of gender-based violence go unreported by victims who distrust the legal system or fear stigmatisation or retribution (Ogum Alangea et al., 2018; B&FTonline, 2022).

To fight gender-based violence (GBV), the government established a Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit within the police service. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, the Department of Social Welfare and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice provide services to GBV victims. The National Gender Policy, the Domestic Violence Act, and the National Domestic Violence Policy are all under review and expected to be updated (Daily Guide Network, 2022; Graphic Online 2022, Women and Girls Empowered, 2022).

Despite such efforts, GBV incidents continue to make national headlines, such as the shooting death of a 33-year-old woman in Dzodze, in which her boyfriend stands accused (GBCGhanaonline, 2022b); the murder of a 25-year-old trainee nurse whose body was found brutalised and buried, allegedly by a local chief and self-proclaimed pastor (Ghana News Agency, 2022); and the reported gang rape of a university student by six of her peers (GhPage, 2022).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2022) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender- based violence. (For related findings on gender equality, see Twum & Dome, 2022).

In Ghana, citizens say that gender-based violence constitutes one of the most important women’s-rights issues that the government and society must address. While most consider domestic violence a criminal matter and believe that the police take GBV cases seriously, a significant minority say it is likely that a woman will be criticised or harassed if she reports GBV violence to the authorities.

Maame Akua Amoah Twum

Maame is the communications coordinator for North and Anglophone West Africa at Afrobarometer

Mavis Zupork Dome

Mavis Zupork Dome is the national investigator for Ghana.