No Birthday For Anna-Linda

When Anna-Linda was born to Esther, an apprentice seamstress who lives at Asamankese, on January 30, 2014, she was very excited to have a very lovely daughter.

The child’s father was not enthused about the pregnancy since the couple were unmarried, but instead of taking the alternative way out with an abortion, Esther braced herself through the stigma and carried the pregnancy but not to full term, because Anna-Linda was born premature.

Anna-Linda, as a premature baby with the warmth, love, care and support from mum, grandma and family, lived, grew up and gained the normal weight for her age.

She grew up with her mum, a native of Anum-Boso, whose family had relocated to the farming community of Ashiorkor, near Asamankese. Esther was to graduate as an apprentice seamstress but due to the financial demands of single parenting, she could not pay off her apprenticeship fees

Her rent, which was GH¢40 a month, was also due. Unfortunately, due to lack of work and other constraints, she couldn’t cough up the landlord’s request for rent advance. She needed to work to gain income and to reduce her expenses in order to save money for rent.

She decided to send her four-year-old Anna-Linda to live with her (Esther’s) mum at Ashiorkor for a while.

Esther also moved in with her aged grandmother at Asamankese for a while, with the hope and intent of raising and saving some money to find her own accommodation.

Four-year-old Anna-Linda was so happy to live with grandma and cousins. She got enrolled in KG 2 at the local Presby school where she attended and continued learning her ABCs and 123.

One day, Anna-Linda’s grandma needed to go to her farm to harvest cassava tubers which were long overdue for harvesting and marketing.

Her younger auntie was given the responsibility to care for Anna-Linda. The four-year-old decided to play with her cousin and another child in the neighbourhood while her younger auntie washed her clothes.

Around this time, 37-year-old neighbour Gyasi came to the children and called out Anna-Linda, who happily followed “Uncle”. Aunties and uncles are names given to adult females or males in communities whether relatives or not.

Apparently, “Uncle” Gyasi took four-year-old Anna-Linda to a quiet area in the community, drugged and defiled her until her intestines could be seen protruding out of her genitalia. He threw her into a nearby gutter after the act and quickly went home, relieved that he would never be found out.

Unknown to him, while in the act on the four-year-old, a young neighbour had chanced upon the incident which looked very odd and with fear and trepidation, sped home to inform family. Anna-Linda was nowhere to be found by her loved ones. After much search and tip-off, she was found lying still in a gutter.

The neighbours were alerted, the police were informed and grandma who had returned from the farm hurriedly borrowed money from a good Samaritan to seek medical attention for Anna-Linda. Unfortunately Anna-Linda, they later found out, was beyond any help.

She had died as a result of the gruesome sexual violence inflicted on her by 37-year-old Gyasi.

Earlier incidents

Gyasi, apparently, had earlier sexually assaulted another child in the neighbourhood but the families had hushed it up.

The excuse was that the child’s family was known by the family of Gyasi so the matter should be handled with kid gloves so that the existing cordial family relationship continued undisturbed.

Incidentally, a local pastor reported that earlier on the same ill-fated morning of Anna-Linda’s defilement, he had heard the loud scream of a child by his house.

Upon coming out of his house to ascertain the source of the scream, he had found a traumatised girl-child who narrated how a man had accosted her on her way to school, slapped her to dizziness and had forcefully removed her pants.

Her screams had caused the unidentified man to bolt while the trauma of the slap had caused her to defecate in her pants. Could this be the reason why trusting Anna-Linda was drugged by “Uncle” Gyasi before committing the heinous and fatal act on her? Anna-Linda is dead.

To quote a UK writer of The Telegraph in a report on a sexual offender, Gyasi had “taken the opportunity to satisfy his own sexual gratification after identifying a vulnerable female”, irrespective of age, resulting in death.

Prevention of similar incidents

Since females, irrespective of their age - from the baby in the cradle to the elderly - could be victims of sexual violence, there must be sex education from kindergarten.

Babies and children should be closely monitored by parents and caregivers. Sexual offenders may also attack boys in an unnatural manner.

Research shows that people known to and trusted by children, not strangers, tend to be the sexual attackers of children.

The Police Service, in collaboration with trained counsellors in the district’s Departments of Social Welfare, should in line with the African Union protocol on the rights of women in Africa “create public awareness in all sectors of society regarding harmful practices through information, formal and informal education and outreach programmes”.

Traditional authorities, faith-based, as well as community-based organisations should be trained and equipped to provide shelters in their local communities, counselling and other support services for survivors and close family of victims of sexual violence.

A study by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) has revealed that Ghana loses economically due to violence against females, including women.

In 2016, Ghana’s economic cost in respect of violence against women was assessed at US$18.9 million in respect of adverse effect on health, loss of working hours and adverse effect on children and family development, which have a long-term impact on society.

“Where the banner of Ghana freely flies, may the way to freedom truly lie.”

The writer is a Lawyer, Lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Business School and President of Women Assistance & Business Association (WABA).

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