|Audio Attachment:listen to Prez Mahama|
"If my daughter is below 18 and somebody attempted to marry her off, I probably will be in prison; I will commit murder," stated President John Dramani Mahama, while condemning child marriages in Ghana.
The President was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual and Healthy Rights in Accra on Wednesday.
The Conference, which is being held in Accra and hosted by Curious Minds, started on February 8 and will end on 12th February, 2016.
The theme of the conference is “Realizing Demographic Dividend in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”.
Ghana has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. On the average, one out of four girls are married before their 18th birthday. The Ghana Demographic Health Survey in 2008 indicated that about 25% of women aged 20-24 were married or were in union before age 18 years.
The 2011 MultiIndicator Cluster Survey (MICS) also scores Ghana about 28% for age of marriage before 18 and about 6% for age before 15 years.
At the conference, President Mahama urged school authorities to raise alarm if the girl child stops attending school or married off into a force marriage.
“There is a culture of silence amongst relatives; often when a child is withdrawn from school or married off into a force marriage, and we need to establish systems that alert the authorities...school authorities must watch out. If a girl stops coming to school, ring the alarm bells, try and find out where the child is and alert the authorities as quickly as possible so that we can prevent them from being married off,” he stated.
He continued: “I, even as a man won’t want to marry a woman I don’t love not to talk about a child. Why should you be forced to marry somebody you have no affection for, and especially a child. If my daughter is below 18 and somebody attempted to marry her off, I probably will be in prison; I will commit murder and so it is something that we take seriously. I am happy that the First Ladies are taking this challenge (up).”
Previous surveys at the regional level indicate that prevalence of child marriages is highest in Upper East (50%), followed by Upper West (39%), Northern (36%) and the least prevalence in Greater Accra (11%). In terms of percentages of girls getting married before age 18 years Upper East region leads with 39%, followed by Western region 37% and the least being Greater Accra region with 12%.
Click the audio above to listen to the President's speech.
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